Summit highlights universities’ impact on cities

The role of universities in driving economic growth is widely known and was canvassed at the recent African Universities summit. But something very valuable, yet often overlooked, is the pivotal role they play at the core of the economic infrastructure and activity of Africa’s cities and towns, writes Samantha Spooner for Mail & Guardian.

This is most apparent when a university ‘sets up shop’ in a rural area. In Kenya, what initially started off as a small animal husbandry research station, was given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church to create a university, dramatically transforming the area within just 25 years. The University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, in Nandi county, was established 50km away from the nearest urban centre, Eldoret. What was initially an area dominated by agriculture and animal farming, dotted with the shining tin roofs of small shacks and criss-crossed by dirt roads, has now become a well-functioning university town.

According to David Hornsby, a senior lecturer in international relations and assistant dean of humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, universities can also drive urban renewal. Often located in city centres, they own significant and valuable real estate and so can be crucial to this process.
Full report on the Mail & Guardian site