SADC approves new university to boost industrialisation

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region has approved the establishment of the SADC University of Transformation to train citizens in innovation to facilitate industrialisation in the region.

The virtual university originates from a proposal in 2016 by King Mswati III of Swaziland when he was the regional bloc’s chairperson as part of measures to improve industrial productivity. The proposal was approved at a recent SADC meeting in Windhoek, Namibia last weekend.

“Summit approved the operationalisation of the SADC University of Transformation, in the form of a virtual university, to focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, commercialisation, technology transfer, enterprise development, digital and knowledge economy, to support the SADC industrialisation agenda,” reads part of a communiqué released after the summit.

The university is expected to be established taking into account the regional skills needs and is poised to complement the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 covering the three main pillars of industrialisation, competitiveness and regional integration.

The agenda to be implemented in three phases has a number of interventions that include measures to upgrade science, technology, engineering and research capabilities of member states; skills development; institutional reforms; and the adoption of macroeconomic policies conducive for industrial development.

It also involves the introduction of advanced technology in agro-food processing projects, increased investment in knowledge, development of unique skills, nurturing innovation as well as promoting competitiveness and deepening an entrepreneurial culture.

King Mswati offered to host the proposed university and said his government would offer scholarships for 300 students for the initial intake to be drawn from all 15 community members – which is 20 students per member country.

"The Kingdom of Swaziland wishes to dedicate the establishment of a SADC University of Transformation, which will be our next milestone in our journey which started in 1990. The university will deliver in education and training terms, using the technical vocational training model of delivery,” King Mswati said.

The king had originally wanted the first intake to be in 2017. In their communiqué regional leaders did not state when the university will start operating.

King Mswati said the proposed university would go a long way in facilitating industrialisation as well as other regional integration initiatives in Southern Africa.

He said it was important that the region adopts thought processes that encourage positive thinking such as “blue ocean strategy”.

The king said that the university would not cover all academic sectors initially, but courses would be added later on. He proposed that the university operate from the premises of existing local universities before a completely new campus was constructed.

Among some of the proposed modules were construction architecture, design and manufacture of cellular phones, hi-fi stereo systems and television sets.