WENR, December 2009: Africa


China Announces Plans for Research Cooperation with African Nations

China increased its role in African science in November, announcing a three-year plan to promote research in agriculture, medicine and clean energy as part of a $10 billion investment in the region.
At the November Forum on China-Africa Cooperation [1] in Egypt, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said his country would create a science and technology partnership with Africa, which would entail carrying out 100 joint research projects and training 100 African post-doctoral students in China, as well as increasing the number of scholarships to African students to 5,500 by 2012. He also promised $73 million worth of medical and research equipment to help improve health care programs and support malaria research.

The Chinese leader also promised to speed up efforts to build food security and increase agricultural research. Two years ago, China said it would build 10 multi-million-dollar Africa-based agricultural technology centers, but now says it will increase that number to 20. The project’s first center is currently being constructed in Mozambique and will have a starting budget of $55 million.

Xinhua [2]
November 8, 2009
SciDev [3]
November 11, 2009


Private Universities Flourish

Private universities in the West African nation of Benin have been working with European partners to set up campuses to meet unmet demand from students who cannot find a place at Benin’s three public universities. There are currently 15 private universities operating in Benin, and many are affiliated to universities in France, Belgium and Canada. In addition, there are reportedly plans to establish branch campuses of European universities.

According to officials at the Ministry of National Education, in the past four years approximately 200,000 school leavers with school-leaving baccalaureate degrees have sought admission to Benin’s public universities, which have just 30,000 available places. Private institutions have stepped in to not only meet domestic demand, but also regional demand.

Over the years, Benin has built a solid reputation among Francophone Africa countries as a center of educational excellence. As a result Benin has become something of a regional hub for higher-educational services, attracting students to its universities and colleges from neighboring countries.  Student visa restrictions imposed by French embassies on candidates from countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have attracted students to private institutions in Benin, while turmoil in countries such as Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia has driven even more students to Benin.

The most popular and successful private institution in Benin is the Institut International de Management. It is well equipped, attracts many local and foreign students, and has strong and diverse affiliations with well-known institutions across Europe and North America. Regional private-sector employers are apparently eager to employ graduates from such institutions.

University World News [4]
November 29, 2009

Democratic Republic of Congo

Eliminating Private Universities Described as “Dumps”

Minister for Higher Education and Research, Léonard Mashako Mamba, has been quoted by numerous local news sources as referring to a large number of institutions of higher education in Kinshasa, the nation’s capital, as “fraudulent money-gathering dumps.” In response, the minister has promised to shut down those not meeting acceptable standards.

The minister’s statements are based on the findings of a commission he set up to investigate the state of higher education and decide which institutions were ‘viable’ and which should be closed. After the Kinshasa inquiry, the country’s remaining 10 provinces will reportedly be subject to scrutiny.

La Prospérité [5]
November 17, 2009
Le Phare [6]
November 16, 2009


Government Works to Close Unlicensed Private Universities

With unprecedented demand for tertiary places at universities across Nigeria, and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, unlicensed institutions of higher education have been proliferating and the Nigerian government is on the warpath, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In a feature-length article, The Chronicle labels as diploma mills the dubious institutions popping up across Nigeria without government recognition. However, the newspaper points out that while most diploma mills in the United States simply sell bogus or forged credentials, the Nigerian equivalent preys on masses of desperate and disenfranchised students who fail to gain entrance to legitimate institutions each year. The ability of these operations to attract students is largely a symptom of deep troubles within the Nigerian higher-education system and society at large. More than two-thirds of Nigerians are under the age of 30 and many, except for the best educated and most well connected, find themselves shut out of the labor market.

Despite the injection of government money into public universities, and the establishment of legitimate private colleges to help relieve the strain on the public system, hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians fail to find college places. Of the million-plus high-school graduates who sit for university entrance examinations annually, only 200,000 find a spot at one of the country’s 96 federal, state or private universities. Unlicensed institutions are capitalizing on the situation and profiting handsomely.

And Nigeria is not the only African country to be plagued by bogus universities. Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda all face similar problems, and have begun regional collaboration efforts to deal with the problem. And while Liberia, the Central African Republic and Chad have all housed international degree mills aimed at Western consumers, educators say they have also come across smaller, less conspicuous fly-by-nights in the region that prey on local students.

In Nigeria, the problem is immense, but the government appears to be determined to stamp it out. According to a list compiled and published regularly by the government, some 32 illegal universities are known to operate within the country, which is almost as many as the 34 legitimate private universities that the government has licensed. The government has already closed down seven illegal universities and is pursuing court cases against several more.

The solution is not obvious, however. The system has too few professors, funds and places for students, while new universities poach the staff members of existing ones, spreading the available pool ever thinner.

A list of recognized public and private universities is maintained on the National Universities Commission [7] website at http://www.nuc.edu.ng/pages/universities.asp [8].

The Chronicle of Higher Education [9]
November 1, 2009


New University

The Centre Universitaire Régional of Bambey [10] was granted university status in November to become the nation’s fifth university. The other four universities operating in the country are l’Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar [11], l’Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis [12], and the universities of Thiès [13] and Ziguinchor [14].

Le Soeil [15]
November 4, 2009


Students Now Bartering for Their Education

Students in Zimbabwe have resorted to bartering for their education because of critical foreign currency shortages, according to a report by the country’s Comptroller and Auditor General Mildred Chiri. Some students have reportedly settled payments using groceries, livestock and other commodities instead of cash.

The government dollarized the economy in February this year, in part to escape world-record inflation that at one time stood at 1.5 million percent, resulting in widespread poverty. The South African rand, United States dollar and Botswana pula are now legal tender and inflation has since dropped to below 2 percent. But most Zimbabweans have very little foreign currency so some students have had to barter to pay tuition fees of around US$150, as well as other payments such as accommodation.

University World News [16]
November 29, 2009