New cluster to implement continent-wide education strategy

A new multi-stakeholder Higher Education Cluster has been created in order to realise the implementation of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa, or CESA, approved in 2016 by African heads of states.

During the CESA planning meeting held in Addis Ababa at the premises of the African Union Commission in June 2016, it was agreed that a Higher Education Cluster be created in support of the realisation of CESA 2016-25. It is on the basis of this directive that the cluster was launched to help realise the strategy in particular and Agenda 2063 in general.

The Higher Education Cluster for the implementation of CESA 2016-25 and Agenda 2063 was officially launched on 8 June at the culmination of the 14th General Meeting and Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Association of African Universities, or AAU, held in in Accra, Ghana.

The Higher Education Cluster is to be implemented under the leadership of the African Union Commission and the coordination of the AAU. The International Network for Higher Education in Africa, under the leadership of its founding director, Professor Damtew Teferra – who is the leader of Higher Education Training and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa – will facilitate the cluster.

The launch of the cluster was presided over by newly-elected president of the AAU, Professor Orlando Quilambo, vice-chancellor of Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique; Dr Beatrice Njenga, head of education at the African Union Commission; and Professor Etienne Ehile, secretary-general of the AAU.

Objectives of CESA

CESA was developed as a strategic intervention in the realisation of the African Union’s vision as articulated in Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. The agenda explicitly pronounces the building and expansion of “an African knowledge society through transformation and investments in universities, science, technology, research and innovation”.

CESA stands on six guiding principles, seven pillars and 12 strategic objectives. The objectives include:
  • • Revitalise the teaching profession to ensure quality and relevance at all levels of education;
  • • Build, rehabilitate, preserve education infrastructure and develop policies that ensure a permanent, healthy and conducive learning environment in all sub-sectors and for all, so as to expand access to quality education;
  • • Harness the capacity of ICT to improve access, quality and management of education and training systems;
  • • Ensure acquisition of requisite knowledge and skills as well as improved completion rates at all levels and groups through harmonisation processes across all levels for national and regional integration;
  • • Accelerate processes leading to gender parity and equity;
  • • Launch comprehensive and effective literacy programmes across the continent to eradicate the scourge of illiteracy;
  • • Strengthen the science and mathematics curricula in youth training and disseminate scientific knowledge and culture in society;
  • • Expand TVET – technical and vocational education and training – opportunities at both secondary and tertiary levels and strengthen linkages between the world of work and education and training systems;
  • • Revitalise and expand tertiary education, research and innovation to address continental challenges and promote global competitiveness;
  • • Promote peace education and conflict prevention and resolution at all levels of education and for all age groups;
  • • Improve management of education systems as well as build and enhance capacity for data collection, management, analysis, communication and use; and
  • • Set up a coalition of stakeholders to facilitate and support activities resulting from the implementation of CESA 2016-25.

Cluster objectives

The objectives of the Higher Education Cluster include:
  • • Mobilise member organisations’ expertise and technical support in implementing agreed work plans and other joint activities in higher education;
  • • Facilitate and support information sharing, communication and interaction within the cluster and beyond;
  • • Agree on key indicators for measuring progress;
  • • Contribute to the development, implementation, monitoring and reporting of agreed annual or biennial work plans, anchored against established baselines;
  • • Establish sub-clusters as need arises and also when a group of stakeholders wishes to coordinate and implement a higher education initiative within the objectives of the strategy;
  • • Provide a continental platform for dialogue and communication through regular meetings to create awareness and ownership of CESA 2016-25, particularly on higher education related objectives;
  • • Develop programmes to support national, regional and continental higher education activities with keen focus on quality assurance; harmonisation and mutual recognition of qualifications; excellence in research, innovation and entrepreneurship; teaching and learning; and institutional leadership; and
  • • Promote policy dialogue at relevant regional, continental and global conventions interested in and committed to higher education.

The African Union Commission, as chair, will provide overall leadership, policy guidance, supervision and administrative coordination for the cluster. Another one or two regional or international bodies may be designated as co-chairs to provide technical and logistical support. The Association of African Universities, as a designated coordinator, will be responsible for technical leadership and programmatic coordination.

The cluster will be facilitated by the International Network for Higher Education in Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Membership of the cluster is open to a wide variety of stakeholders and it is anticipated to include African Union member states’ ministries for higher education and research as well as national and regional quality assurance agencies and representatives of departments overseeing education in regional economic communities; national, regional and other institutions of higher learning and research; regional and continental university associations, international organisations, knowledge networks and think tanks, development actors, private sector representatives, civil society bodies and foundations.

Membership will also be open to other stakeholders that can contribute to the achievement of CESA’s strategic objectives related to higher education.


The modality of implementing the higher education cluster is predicated on the establishment of multiple and relevant sub-clusters in higher education. Each sub-cluster, that will be coordinated under the Higher Education Cluster, will be headed by a committed expert who is willing and able to undertake its specific objectives.

The Higher Education Cluster is expected to catalyse the realisation of CESA 2016-25. It is anticipated that all relevant stakeholders actively participate and contribute to the promotion of this African blueprint developed based on Agenda 2063, taking cognisance of other regional and international development strategies.

Damtew Teferra is a professor of higher education, the leader of Higher Education and Training Development, and founding director of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is also the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of African Higher Education. He may be reached at and