In July of 2007 a number of groups based in the United States and Africa came together to consider what could be done to assist in strengthening African higher education’s capacity to educate and solve problems relevant to national and regional development. These meetings resulted in an initiative to strengthen the capacity of African higher education through partnerships between African and U.S. higher education institutions, over a sustained period for mutual benefit.
The principal goal of the Initiative was to facilitate deeper and more effective partnerships between African and U.S. institutions of higher education with a view to contributing more effectively to key priority development areas such as science and technology; agriculture, environment and natural resources; engineering; business, management and economics; health, and education and teacher training.
In pursuit of this goal the Initiative aimed to:
- Raise the level of investment in long-term institutional partnerships between African and US institutions and increase awareness of the important role higher education institutions can play in national and regional development.
- Increase the effectiveness of investment in higher education partnerships by generating and disseminating knowledge about best practices and lessons learned in capacity building partnerships and channeling investments towards a coherent, African-led, long-term vision.
The Initiative worked towards these goals in the following ways:
- Advocacy and Outreach – Strong and consistent advocacy for increased U.S. investment in African higher education has been lacking in recent decades. The Initiative is working to promote and coordinate efforts by the U.S. higher education community and other key stakeholders to advocate for greater support for long-term human and institutional capacity building in Africa, particularly through partnerships between African and U.S. higher education institutions. This advocacy work continues through the International Advocacy Coordinating Committee.
- Learning and Networking – In order to lead a strong advocacy effort and facilitate effective institutional collaboration, it is critical to connect and coordinate with institutions and networks in Africa and the U.S. that are engaged in African higher education capacity building and to keep current with issues, priorities and knowledge related to African higher education. There is also a critical need to monitor and evaluate higher education partnerships to identify not only what works but why it works in order to create an evidence-based approach to higher education capacity development. To this end, the Initiative established the Knowledge Center on Higher Education for African Development.
- Partnership development – In FY 2010, APLU worked with Congress to secure an appropriation of $15 million for partnerships between African and U.S. institutions of higher education under the banner of the Africa-US Higher Education Initiative. The appropriation funded eleven U.S. Universities to work with counterparts in Africa on building strengthening the capacity of African higher education human and institutional capacity. Nine of these partnerships are still being supported with USAID funding although long-term support from the Agency is uncertain.
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