Pan-African University campus to open in September

Algeria is to open a campus of the Pan-African University (PAU) in September specialising in renewable energy sciences and climate change research. The campus will accommodate about 450 doctoral students from across Africa.

The opening of the campus was announced by Mokhtar Sellami, Algeria's deputy director of scientific research and technological development in the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, during a national conference on energy and water resources that opened on 28 January in Bou Ismail (Tipasa), Algeria.

Until the water, energy and climate change institute gets its own buildings in Annaba and is able to operate independently, students will use the research laboratories and equipment of 11 Algerian universities that have formed a network to support the PAU node, according to an October 2011 report on the website of Nature Middle East.

The report also indicated that following the launch meeting for the Algerian PAU in March, a call for lecturer and student applicants from across the African continent will be issued and the university curriculum will be designed.

Several recent international reports have indicated that Africa is facing serious water problems as well as the negative impacts of climate change, which could destroy lives and livelihoods along with underexploited substantial renewable energy resources.

So argues the UN Industrial Development Organisation report Scaling up Renewable Energy in Africa, and a report titled Climatic Science, Information and Services in Africa: Status, gaps and policy implications.

One of the major challenges facing Africa, on which the Algerian PAU campus will focus, is the limited number of locally trained personnel with technical, economic and social-cultural skills in renewable energy. Further challenges include weak communication and computational capacity and lack of appropriate climate information and services.

Sadallah Boubaker-Khaled, a professor of mathematics at École Normale Supérieure in Algiers, cautiously welcomed the news about the Algerian PAU campus.

“Algeria, by virtue of its location and its potential financial and human resources, is capable of taking on the PAU campus project, which can be considered in the context of south-south cooperation that we need, especially on the African level and in the third world in general,” Boubaker-Khaled told University World News.

“However, I have a lot of doubts and reservations about the success of this project at acceptable scientific levels because of management problems, bureaucratic administration and neglect,” Boubaker-Khaled warned.

The latest PAU campus is one of five across west, central, north, east and southern Africa that will comprise the PAU, which is designed to boost postgraduate education, science and technological research, and academic mobility and exchange across Africa.

The PAU campuses include an Earth and life sciences campus at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, a sciences, technology and innovation campus at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, a governance, humanities and social sciences campus based at the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon, and a space sciences campus in South Africa.

In a related development, on 31 January the department of human resources, science and technology of the African Union (AU) organised a PAU fundraising lunch on the sidelines of the 18th AU summit, according to the African Press Organisation.

The event brought together several donors and partners, including the private sector and some representatives of AU member states.

Equatorial Guinea expressed an interest in fisheries and will provide infrastructure to host a branch in this area if the AU is interested, Ruben Maye Nsue Mangue, the ambassador for Equatorial Guinea in the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, said at the fundraising event.

Mangue said it would be a source of pride for young African students to be educated on the continent rather than going abroad for their studies. He donated an envelope containing an undisclosed amount, which he said would be deducted from his salary, as his personal contribution to the PAU project.