African students and universities have started to use the many opportunities extended to them in recent years through EU programmes such as Erasmus+.
EU support to the harmonisation of African higher education, provided in close cooperation with the African Union but also with partners such as precisely the AAU, is taking shape through the Tuning Africa project and recent work on quality assurance in higher education (HAQAA) and credit transfer.
The 50th anniversary conference of the Association of African Universities (AAU), held in Ghana between 5 and 8 June, showed all the signs of this deepening cooperation.
Prof. Etienne Ehile, the AAU’s secretary-general, acknowledged the significance of this cooperation in his opening speech and both the president of Ghana, HE Nana Akufo-Addo, and the representative of the African Union Commission, Dr. Beatrice Njenga, underlined the increased political commitment to higher education development. This commitment is also apparent in the new priorities for cooperation to be discussed at the EU-Africa summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, later this year.
President Nana Akufo-Addo stressed the need to view human resources development as a continuum and not a collection of parts that can be prioritised at will when he said that “we should never have to choose between primary education and higher education”. He continued to highlight precisely the urgency of critical work on quality assurance and harmonisation.
The EU was officially represented by Ambassador William Hanna during the opening sessions. In the presence of the president, he addressed the assembly with a call for deeper cooperation, saying
“The EU seeks to be a constructive partner in global cooperation, within our member states and with all our partners worldwide, our partnership with Africa and our work together have real significance and real impact on the quality of what we do together.”
He referred to the recent European Commission communication on a renewed partnership with Africa, which had been distributed to the conference participants, saying that this too, showed the commitment to closer collaboration in the field of education.
“Engaging on a professional, academic and political level like we are doing is, I believe, especially encouraging.” - Ambassador William Hanna
President Nan Akufo-Addo
Ambassador William Hanna