Research and Higher Education for the African Renaissance: A conference on the breakthrough for African Universities

The Nordic aid organisations have requested the Nordic Africa Institute to organise an international conference in Saltsjöbaden, Stockholm, in June 2006. The conference is intended to create a platform where representatives from universities, university organisations and other university stakeholders in Africa and in the Nordic countries can meet and strengthen their cooperation in the field of higher education and research.

The initiative to the conference shall be seen against the roller coaster development that African universities have experienced since independence. When at its deepest point in the 1980s, the argument was that the return to investment that Africa received from its expenditure on higher education was too low and therefore unjustifiable. It was also argued that the content of the curriculum was not attuned to the needs of the labour market. Instead of investing in universities, Africa, it was argued, would be better off if resources were diverted to primary, vocational and secondary schools. At the same time Africa should explore more cost-effective foreign options for university-level training. Today the notion is spreading, however, that significant improvements of research and higher education are necessary in order to contribute to what has been called the African Renaissance. This calls for a vision and a role for the African universities. Recently, a number of suggestions and initiatives aiming at supporting a radical strengthening of the African Universities have been launched.

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in 2004 published two major studies on the African Universities in the twenty-first century, and successful national university reforms are taking place in a number of African countries. The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) is introducing a programme for the strengthening of African tertiary education and research, and the Association of African Universities (AAU) is restructuring and strengthening its organisation in order to reinforce the cooperation between African universities. The Commission for Africa, the UN-Millennium Project and the Canadian-British project “Building Science & Technology Capacity with African Partners” should also be taken into account in this context. Also the World Bank asserts the view as to the importance of higher education in nation building.

Aims of the Conference

1. To present initiatives from African universities, university organisations and university stakeholders to position knowledge in development.

2. To discuss how Nordic universities and research communities can contribute in this process.

3. To define the challenges for Nordic funding agencies and explore the potential for common action.

Time and Place for the Venue

Vår Gård, Saltsjöbaden, Stockholm, June 1-2, 2006.

By invitations only.


Anna Eriksson-Trenter (

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