The Association of African Universities (AAU) has opened its Eastern regional office in Sudan in a bid to increase the association’s visibility and proximity to its member universities, as part of a broader move to open regional offices throughout the continent.
The University of Khartoum is the host to the new AAU Eastern Regional Office that was inaugurated on 14 March. It will represent AAU member institutions from Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Somalia, Comoros and the Seychelles.
The regional offices will assist the AAU to work collaboratively with its members in finding solutions to issues confronting them, and help respond to the broader mandate of improving higher education quality as recommended by the African Union Agenda 2063 and other relevant strategies, according to a statement.
The new Eastern Africa office is part of the AAU’s plan to establish regional offices in the northern, western, eastern, central and southern regions of Africa. It was one of the key tasks assigned to the AAU secretariat by the AAU governing body during its last meeting in June 2017 in Accra, Ghana.
The secretariat is in discussions with Egypt on arrangements to host the North African AAU regional office.
The AAU regional offices will be responsible for facilitating activities of the membership in the sub-regions in consultation with the secretariat and for pursuing membership drives in order to increase and improve relations with existing and potential members.
It is hoped that the regional offices will also enhance the role of governments at the sub-regional level in supporting the activities of the association, strengthen relationships among members and other development partners at the sub-regional levels and promote knowledge sharing.
The offices also aim to actively promote collaboration among academia, civil society, the private sector and governments at the sub-regional level; promote collaboration among the African Centres of Excellence; and work collectively with the other regional offices and the AAU secretariat to support major educational strategies such as the Continental Education Strategy for Africa, the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa and technical and vocational education and training.
In a goodwill message, Adipala Ekwamu, executive secretary of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), said the AAU’s regional office will increase the association’s mandate of ensuring access to African higher education through innovative methods such as open and distance learning, sharing infrastructure, academic mobility, credit transfers, harmonisation and curriculum reforms, to match the needs of the continent.
“Africa must invest much more in education, science, research and technology to meet its own development targets, and claim its stake in the world and knowledge economy. It must also strengthen collaboration between universities and industry; and accelerate intra-African research and scientific cooperation,” said Ekwamu.
He noted that there has been a rapid increase in the rate of technological advancement which has created profound changes in workforce demands and economic realities. There has also been a significant increase in the number of universities across the continent calling for pragmatic approaches to foster collaboration across the continent.
The AAU has responded to these changes and adapted to meet the needs of its members, and helped to find solutions to many of these new challenges by providing a platform for research, reflection, consultation, debate, cooperation and collaboration.