Africa’s New Frontier – Day 2 – Morning Sessions

2010 February 5
tags: ,
by Ismail Dhorat

9:30 – Plenary Session

Topic: Innovative Approaches by African universities to meet Africa’s Development Challenges
Speaker: Goolam Mohamedbhai, Secretary General, Association of African Universities

Participation in HE is no more then 5% in Africa, while it is as much as 20% in developed countries.

Challenges to Higher Education in Africa

  • Coping with huge demand
  • Gender disparity
  • Poort and insufficient infrastructure
  • Poor research output
  • Poor linkages with community & rural areas
  • Poor ICT

African’s have developed innovative approaches to meet these challenges

Addressing Gender Issues

  • 5 years ago, enrollment in HE was 35% for females
  • Disparity when it comes to Science & Technology
  • Implemented affirmative action to encourage more women in science
  • Some universities setup gender institutes (UCT in South Africa, Meraka in Uganda)
  • Enrollment is now as much as 50%
  • Mauritius has as much as 60%
  • Gender disparity still exists amongst teaching staff

Teacher Training

  • Severe shortage of teachers
  • 1.2 Million teachers are needed by 2015 to achieve universal primary education
  • Existing teaches need to be retrained
  • Several open universities have been created such as UNISA, there are are other universities created in Tanzania, Nigeria, Zimbabwe
  • Traditional universities are running teacher training
  • Some countries have setup exclusive teacher training centers
  • 500,000 teachers were trained between 2007-2009

Alleviating poverty through rural development

  • 70% of SSA population live in rural areas
  • Agriculture is the main rural activity
  • Rural development also needs to be mainstreamed in university activities
  • Some universities have made it a requirement for graduates to work in rural areas for at least a year on completion of their degree
  • UCAD in Senegal, runs a vacation camp where they send students from various disciplines to rural areas
  • University of Development studies in Ghana, made it compulsory in all programs to spend 1 trimester per a year doing field work in Ghana
  • University of Bakhat in Sudan, created 11 community colleges

Promoting peace and assist with conflict resolution

Responding to HIV/AIDS

  • A 2001 report showed that showed a serious impact of HIV/AIDS on HE & absence
  • In 2002 the AAU (Association of African Universities) launched programs for HIV/AIDS
  • A toolkit was developed for HE, has 10 modules covering management, policy, HR, student activities, curriculum reform, community, engagement etc.
  • 4 sub regional networks established to facilitate coordination
  • Second phase of AAU program started (2009-2013)
  • After nearly a decade, there is now much greater awareness at universities

11:00 – Media

Topic: Plugged in and turned on: Africa’s place in the digital age

  • How are access to digital technologies and the web shaping African society and businesses
  • What is the economic potential of expanding bandwidth in Africa


  • Alice Munyua, Coordinator, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) and the East African Internet Governance Forum (EAIGF)
  • Boubakar Barry, Coordinator, Research and Education Networks, Association of African Universities, Ghana
  • Jessica Colaco, Principal Researcher, Strathmore Research and Consultancy Centre, Kenya

First up was Alice Munyua

  • The increase of bandwidth in Africa has resulted in many projects for example drumnet, which connects farmers to markets and decreases poverty
  • It has enabled new ways of governance, and transparency. For example government in Kenya is looking at SMS voting
  • Mobiles are used to pay bills in Kenya, which has had a huge impact (Example Mpesa)
  • Kenyan Government is pushing universal access to broadband
  • Businesses in Kenya are starting to include e-commerce in their strategies
  • Access is being extended to rural areas
  • Ushahidi was used as an example of something developed in Africa which is having an impact globally
  • A number of conflicts in Kenya is a result of land disputes, mapping is being used to document land ownership and to avoid conflicts

Next up was Boubakar who gave us an overview of the benefits of Fibre optic cables, and the advantages of the new cables being installed.

  • Fibre produces superior bandwidth
  • There is little loss of signal
  • No EMF
  • No repeaters are required as is the case with copper
  • The monopolies that existed previously with the SAT-3 cable is falling away with new undersea cables such as SEACOM
  • In 2 years, the bandwidth in Africa will have increased 125x that of  SAT-3
  • Costs have not dropped as much as we had hopped
  • The challenge is providing access to countries that are landlocked (almost 50% of countries in Africa are land locked)
  • Africa spends as much as $ 400,000 – 600,000 on routing traffic to europe/usa and then back to Africa due to a very low number of IXP (Internet Exchange Points) in Africa
  • There should be an IXP in every country in Africa
  • There should be regional IXP’s (i.e South Africa, Eastern, Western Africa)
  • There was concern that 8 operators control about 90% of the bandwidth in Africa

Next up was Jessica

  • Not all of Africa is receiving quality bandwidth
  • The increase of bandwidth has made the world flat
  • It is reshaping e-commerce in Africa
  • However there is a need for localized content that caters for the needs in Africa
  • Mobile devices are key
  • The IHUB in Kenya was mentioned, a place for bringing together innovators in Kenya
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