WENR, March 2013: Africa

High-Speed Network Connects African and European Research

An African-led high-speed internet network has been launched that connects academics and researchers throughout Southern and East Africa to their peers in Europe.

The network, called UbuntuNet [1], was launched at the 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT, held in Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of November, according to a press report [2]. The European event followed a similar launch held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, at the UbuntuNet-Connect 2012 annual conference [3] in mid-November.

UbuntuNet is a collaboration between the UbuntuNet Alliance [4], the regional research and education network for Southern and East Africa, and DANTE [5] – Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe – which operates the pan-European research and education network, GÉANT. The network provides advanced data communications infrastructure, enabling African researchers to collaborate more easily in advanced international research projects.

University World News [6]
December 7, 2012

African E-Learning Most Dynamic in the World

With rapid growth in academic digitization programs, booming enrollments in online higher education and the rapid adoption of self-paced e-learning, Africa has become the most dynamic e-learning market in the world, according to a new report.

The January report [7] by US-based international research company Ambient Insight [8], titled The Africa Market for Self-paced e-Learning Products and Services: 2011-2016 forecast and analysis, included five-year revenue forecasts for 16 countries: Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The study found that the overall growth rate for self-paced e-learning in Africa is 15.2 percent. Senegal has the highest growth rate in Africa at 30.4 percent, followed by Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya at 27.9, 25.1 and 24.9 percent respectively. The report’s major finding, said Ambient Insight, was that “the supply and demand metrics for e-learning in Africa are evolving so fast that the market bears little resemblance to the competitive landscape as recently as two years ago.”

The report also found that Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for four out of the five self-paced e-learning products and services covered, including packaged content, custom content development services, cloud-based authoring tools and learning platform services, installed authoring tools, and installed learning platforms. The growth rate for cloud-based e-learning products in Africa is a breathtaking 38.6 percent, and packaged content will generate the highest revenues in Africa throughout the forecast period.

This increase is the result of the recent arrival of fiber optic connectivity, which is a major learning technology catalyst in Africa. Another catalyst includes national, regional and international support for several new development-backed initiatives to integrate learning technology into education and training, said the report. These include 2012 African Development Bank support of US$15.6 million to help strengthen the capacity of the African Virtual University [9] (AVU), which last year had 31 active higher education partners across Africa; and the creation of new virtual universities across Africa.

University World News [10]
January 25, 2013

Brain Drain Slowing

The flight of talented human capital from the African continent has been going on for years. In order to grow their economies, nations across Africa have long been trying to figure out how to stop this brain drain, and recent studies suggest that it may finally be coming to an end. Many Africans studying abroad are now finding opportunities to use their training back home.

With seven of the world’s 10 fastest economies in Africa, young people are noticing that their home may be the place where they have the best chance of quickly establishing a career.

The numbers show the continent’s transformation in the past few years. Whereas Nigeria was ranked 112 in the world in 2008 for retaining educated workers, it is now ranked 48th, according to data from the World Education Forum. South Africa moved from 72nd place to 48th place in the world rankings, while Ghana rose from 125th to 53rd place. Furthermore, when the Johannesburg private equity firm Jacana surveyed African students [11] pursuing master of business administration degrees at leading American and European schools, they found that 70 percent planned to return to Africa after graduation.

Voice of America [12]
February 13, 2013


Plans Announced for 15 New Universities to Ease Admissions Backlog

Kenyan government officials have announced plans to upgrade 15 colleges to fully fledged universities as they seek to build capacity in the university system to enroll at least 10,000 extra students annually. The upgrade will more than triple the number of public universities, from seven to 22.

In the first month of 2013, President Mwai Kibaki has awarded charters to five university colleges, allowing them to admit students and offer degree programs, without backing from a public university. At the time of writing, he was expected to award charters to another 10 colleges, before leaving power after the March 4 elections.

Two years ago, most colleges were upgraded into university colleges affiliated to Kenya’s seven public universities. Eight of the colleges admitted 4,500 students in the 2012 intake.

The five university colleges that have already been upgraded are:

The government has been looking for ways to clear a backlog of 40,000 would-be students. The backlog has meant that students who qualify for degree programs following the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams have to wait for two years before they can be admitted to government-funded programs.

But the upgrade of colleges has been criticized by some academics who believe they will leave a huge hole in further and vocational training. The 15 colleges were previously offering diplomas and certificates in areas such as engineering and electronics.

“While there is need to upgrade the colleges to universities to expand higher education, it is leaving a dangerous gap that will deny the country much-needed technical skills,” said Daniel Ngugi, a lecturer in Nairobi. “It only makes sense if the government can quickly set up new technical colleges to replace the ones which have been upgraded.”

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology said last year that it would increase spending to strengthen vocational and technical training countrywide. The plan includes building new technical institutions and elevating some to national polytechnic status.

University World News [13]
February 9, 2013

Online Education as an Answer to Capacity Constraints

While Kenyan universities open satellite campuses across the country to meet the growing demand for higher education, some experts feel that investment in e-learning would be a better and cheaper way to improve access to education.

Njambi Muchane, director of the Kenya School of Government E-learning and Development Institute, says that universities should set up small regional offices to train students via e-learning. “Local universities should understand that they can use the same professors and lecturers to train many participants in different locations,” she says.

Judging from the many people who are registering for online programs with the University of South Africa [14] (Unisa), Africa’s largest open distance learning institution, Muchane says the time is now for local universities to invest in e-learning, rather than continuing to pour limited resources into physical infrastructure and human resource capacity. These challenges, Muchane says can be solved by developing an appropriate e-learning platform.

Muchane has challenged Kenyan universities to improve their e-learning programs, noting that currently most offerings are well below international standards.

“Different institutions are at different levels of adopting ICT and technology assisted learning. There are those who use e-learning to communicate to their students by for instance posting course notes or sending them assignments. But a lot needs to be done in terms of fully utilizing ICT in training,” she says, adding that strict standards for delivery also need to be established.

– All Voices
February 20, 2013


First French Language University to Open

The government of Mauritius has announced that it will open the Indian Ocean island’s first French language university this year. To be called Université des Mascareignes [15], the institution will operate with the help of France’s University of Limoges, according to a recently signed memorandum of understanding on the project.

Mauritius has positioned itself in recent years to be a regional knowledge hub. Higher education reforms are under way, new universities and campuses are being built and the government is working to attract 100,000 international students by 2020.

Université des Mascareignes will join a long list of private foreign tertiary institutions opening branches in Mauritius. Currently there are 66 overseas institutions and examination bodies now operating on the island, 36 of them from the UK, eight from France-Réunion, eight from India, five from Australia, four from South Africa, two each from Malaysia and the United States, and one from Sudan.

Université des Mascareignes plans to adopt the ‘LMD’ (licence-master-doctorate) system based on Europe’s Bologna reforms. The Mauritian government aims to attract about 900 students for the 2013 intake.

University World News [16]
February 23, 2103


Divided Opinions on 3 New Universities in North

The Nigerian government recently created three new universities in the north of the country, bringing to nine the number of institutions established by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the past two years. However, reaction to the new universities has been mixed.

Those opposed to the creation of the new universities believe that the funds used to create them should have been used to improve existing, underfunded institutions, while also positing that there aren’t enough qualified professionals in the country to staff the new institutions. Those in favor believe the move will open up much-needed access to higher education for many more Nigerians, pointing out that more than 1.5 million candidates compete each year to gain access to just 300,000 places in 128 Nigerian universities.

University World News [17]
February 23, 2013