Dialogue series sparks conversations on transformation

TrustAfrica, a pan-African foundation launched six years ago in Senegal, has been organising higher education dialogues in several African countries to provide a neutral and safe space for conversations on higher education transformation.

TrustAfrica’s grantee project activity report on the Policy Dialogues Series on Higher Education in Africa was presented at a Carnegie Corporation of New York-sponsored convening in Nairobi on “Higher Education Policy, Leadership and Governance” in Africa.

Formed as a governance and policy organisation, the body has initiated a number of projects and processes, and been the catalyst for collaborations and partnerships.

Its higher education project offers a platform to strengthen the African higher education sector, and recognises the long-term presence of key players like researchers, academics, the private sector, civil society, policy-makers and various institutions whose work has been critical in shaping Africa’s higher education landscape.

TrustAfrica initiated the higher education dialogue series, under project leader Dr Omano Edigheji, in the hope that multiple stakeholders would unite to set the education agenda.

Its strategic goal is to promote higher education transformation in Africa through multi-stakeholder policy dialogues, currently in four countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

The first phase managed to build relationships across the four countries.

In Tanzania, for example, the dialogue recommended the creation of a think-tank on higher education, while in Nigeria, ministers responsible for the Economic Cluster have accepted TrustAfrica’s recommendation to establish a separate ministry for higher education.

In Uganda, the dialogue TrustAfrica co-hosted with its national partners, the Ugandan Vice-Chancellors’ Forum and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, created a platform for education stakeholders to contribute to the design of the Ugandan National Vision 2040, launched this year.

And in Ghana, Education Minister Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang asked to use the dialogue platform to develop a vision for her tenure. The dialogue will also lay the foundation for a white paper setting out new priorities for higher education transformation.

TrustAfrica has also produced scoping studies and reports mapping out reform agendas, and has generated a database of all higher education institutions in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

The project has attracted much attention, and various organisations are now keen to collaborate with TrustAfrica on higher education reforms.

For example, the Association of African Universities general assembly of more than 250 vice-chancellors and senior leaders took up the theme of graduate employability generated by Ghana earlier this year, while the World Bank wants to use TrustAfrica’s stakeholder dialogue approach to inform its governmental higher education funding in Tanzania.

TrustAfrica cited, as major challenges and drawbacks, lack of organisational capacity among national partners, saying many umbrella bodies of vice-chancellors were without permanent secretariats and staff to do concerted research and policy work to transform the sector.

There were also few civil society organisations with dedicated work programmes on higher education; thus there was limited advocacy for higher education on the continent.

* Staff involved in the TrustAfrica Policy Dialogue Series on Higher Education in Africa are Dr Akwasi Aidoo (executive director), Dr Bheki Moyo (programme director), and Susan Telingator (communication manager).