‘Green’ university networks being developed in Africa

Africa has been late to join the ‘green’ universities movement – only five institutions on the continent are among more than 400 participating in a global ranking of universities that practise environmentally friendly policies to help combat climate change. But now national and regional ‘green’ university networks are being developed on the continent.

Green university networks are currently being planned for Kenya, Morocco, Uganda and West Africa – as well as for Arab states and West Asia – in a consultative process between universities, national environmental and education agencies and the United Nations Environment Programme, according to UNEP.

There is much catching up to be done, at least with some institutions in the developed world.

GreenMetric World University Ranking

The 2015 UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, produced by Universitas Indonesia and released on 22 January, ranked the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom as the world’s top ‘green’ campus followed by America’s University of Connecticut and the University of California, Davis.

Among the five African universities included in the ranking for sustainability are two from Egypt, one from Morocco and two from South Africa.

Top in Africa is the American University in Cairo, which was ranked 81 out of 407, followed by Egypt’s Kafrelsheikh University (193), South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal (328) and the University of South Africa (346), and Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco (396).

Universitas Indonesia says it is the only world ranking that measures participating universities’ commitment to developing environmentally friendly infrastructure. UI GreenMetric has been accepted as a member of the IREG Observatory – the international ranking expert group – based in Belgium.

The university said in a release that 407 universities from 65 countries had provided information to the ranking.

This year the ranking introduced a Carbon Footprint evaluation, which it said is “tightly related to the main indicators”: environmental setting and infrastructure (15%), energy and climate change (21%), waste management (18%), water management (10%), eco-friendly transportation (18%) and education (18%).

Turning African universities 'green’

The ‘green’ university networks being forged in Africa and other developing regions are, UNEP says, aimed at improving campus sustainability by incorporating “environmental, low carbon-climate resilience development strategies and sustainability aspects in their education, training, campus operations and enhanced student engagement” in and beyond universities.

The networks will also assist universities to mainstream UNEP’s Greening Universities Toolkit into their day-to-day functions through green campus developments and practices, curriculum development, and community and student engagement.

National and regional ‘green’ university networks are being developed for Kenya, Morocco, Uganda and West Africa, assisted by UNEP’s Environmental Education and Training Unit, through the flagship Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability initiative.

An Arab States Green University Network will be launched next July and the Kenya Green University Network, or KGUN, will launch in the coming month.

KGUN will be a functional network of Kenya’s 67 higher education institutions and will provide a strategic platform for collaborative efforts to incorporate environmental and sustainability aspects into education and training, campus operations and management.

Eusebius Mukhwana, deputy secretary for planning, research and development at Kenya’s Commission for University Education, told University World News that the KGUN was a collaborative effort between the commission, UNEP and Kenya’s national environmental authority.

Mariam Ayombi Osman, an environmental education and training specialist for UNEP’s Environmental Education and Training Unit, told University World News that the greening initiative could be implemented through formal education and training, lifelong learning, and capacity building projects.

“In Africa, the Kenya Green University Network will play a key role in implementation of the African Environmental Education and Training Action Plan 2015-24, which aims to enhance community environmental education and training within the continent for endorsement by African ministers.”