In major step, African universities body opens US office

The Association of African Universities (AAU), in partnership with the African Union (AU), is to open an office in Washington DC in the United States, which it hopes will help to promote relations and academic collaborations between universities in North America and their African counterparts.

The North America Office of the Association of African Universities (AAU/NAMO) will be inaugurated at the African Union Permanent Mission to the United States in Washington on 1 October, in an event that will bring together diplomats, African diaspora scholars and higher education representatives from Africa, the US and Canada.

It will also be attended by representatives of professional associations from both sides, in what is a major boost in the AAU’s bid to create linkages between African and American institutions.

“The Association of African Universities (AAU) in collaboration with the African Union Permanent Mission to the United States of America, invites all stakeholders to the inauguration of the North America Office of the Association of African Universities,” said an invitation posted by the AAU on its website.

“The event will witness a gathering of representatives from African diplomatic missions, academic and professional associations, ‘diasporans’ and key stakeholders of higher education in North America and from Africa,” it added.

The event, it said, will also feature other day-long activities including speeches and discussions on a wide range of topics centred on the theme of strengthening North America-Africa academic relations.

The list of guests and speakers has not yet been made public, but sub-themes of the day will include strengthening Africa-diaspora relations, strengthening US-Africa governments’ academic and research cooperation policies, and forging key strategic partnerships among key stakeholders in academia, professional associations, research institutions and ‘diasporan’ and African youth.

While it has not been indicated what kind of partnership the AAU has forged with the AU in establishing the office, it seems like the AU will host the universities body, giving it the diplomatic impetus and force it would need to engage institutions in the affluent region.

The new office comes seven months after the AAU opened a regional office for North Africa at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University in Cairo on 12 March.

In March 2018, it opened an office for Eastern Africa in Sudan hosted by the University of Khartoum to cater for institutions in 15 countries in the wider Eastern African region, including Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Somalia, Comoros and the Seychelles.

A statement issued by AAU Secretary General Etienne Ehile then indicated that the AAU had resolved to open similar offices to cater for the Western and Southern African regions.