Brazil launches African higher education collaboration

Brazil has launched a major higher education cooperation programme with Portuguese-speaking Africa. Under the project, educators and researchers from 20 Brazilian centres of higher education will provide services in five African nations.

The Portuguese-speaking nations include Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe.

The Africa-Brazil higher education programme was drafted at a meeting on “Education as a Strategic Bridge for the Brazil-Africa Relationship”, held in Bahia state's Costa de Sauipe region of Brazil on 21 May.

The programme focuses on training teachers, curriculum development, educational management, digital education and professional education as well as on strengthening institutional capacity and assessing the performance of higher education institutions.

The higher education collaborative project with the five African countries was launched as the first step in implementing the programme, according to a 7 June report by Prensa Latina. Clélio Campolina, rector of Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais, said this was the first time the Ministry of Education had financed a project of this nature.

The University of São Paulo will offer a masters in education for Angolans, while the federal centre of higher studies in Rio Grande do Sul will participate in implementing the first course in agronomy at the University of Cape Verde.

The collaborative plan also includes granting scholarships to African students to study in Brazilian higher education institutions. Because of the language issue, most of the African students involved are from Portuguese-speaking nations, according to a report titled Brazil in Africa: Ambitions and achievements of an emerging regional power in the political and economic sector.

The report also indicated that Brazil recently inaugurated a university in Africa, the International Afro-Brazilian Lusophone UniversityUniversidade Federal da Integração Luso-Afro-Brasileira, or UNILAB, which by 2014 is expected to admit half of 5,000 students from Africa.

“Young people from Portuguese-speaking African countries will have the opportunity to be trained as engineers in areas that are useful for socioeconomic development in their own countries. In this way, we can contribute to the national development in several African nations,” former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was quoted as saying.

According to a recent report, Advancing Countries, Bridging Continents?, UNILAB is intended to become an integrated multi-campus institution with campuses in all the African member countries of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries. Each campus will also be integrated within the regions where it is located.

“For nearly every African problem there is a Brazilian solution. Similarly, solutions arising from Africa have great applicability in Brazil because of ecological similarities and cultural connections," Calestous Juma, director of the science, technology and globalisation project at US-based Harvard University and co-chair of the African Union's High Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation, told University World News.

"University cooperation is a great way to share such lessons and learn from each other.”