AFRICA-INDIA: New ties to strengthen higher education

India's plans to support a string of higher education and training institutions in Africa will help to push student mobility, add to graduate numbers and nurture a development-centred approach, say African Union Commission officials.

"Indian support in areas of higher education will boost Africa's capacity-building efforts," Dr Beatrice Njenga, the African Union Commission's education division head, told University Wold News at a side-meeting to the 3rd Africa-EU Summit held in Cape Town last week.

Njenga said areas targeted for support by India included five higher education institutions across Africa and 10 institutions of technical and vocational training.

Among them would be a diamond training institute to be located in Southern Africa, an institute of administration, planning and education stationed in Burundi in Central Africa, an institute for foreign trade in East Africa, an institute for information technology in Ghana, and a pan-African stock exchange in Egypt.

Njenga said member states in Africa had selected these projects themselves. The host countries have to put infrastructure for the project in place themselves - India will not build any institutions.

"Our capacity is being built in a sustainable way. The fact that countries bid to host Indian projects shows commitment to carry them forward," she said.

India will support the higher education projects for the first three years and institutions are expected to take over thereafter. In addition, India has already offered 300 scholarships in agriculture for Africans that will start next year.

Njenga said the relationship with India has shown that marketing the continent as a collective was attractive. All over the world many institutions were willing to work with the continent as an entity on the education front.

Jean-Pierre Ezin, commissioner of the African Union Commission for Human Resource, Science and Technology, recently visited India to discuss the nature and the number of training institutes that India plans to set up in Africa. He said India could help transform the continent through education.

"What we need in Africa is higher education to face global challenges. Per capita investment in education has to increase," Ezin told the Indo-Asian News Agency. He added: "If we can put education and research at the heart of the India-Africa partnership, it will be hugely beneficial for the African continent."

Last March India and the 53-nation African Union launched an action plan that outlined a detailed strategy for accelerating bilateral engagement for the next four years. India is also already working with AU on a Pan-African e-network that seeks to bring tele-education and tele-medicine to Africa's people.