A two-member delegation from Universities Canada (UC) and the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) paid a working visit to the Secretariat of the Association of African Universities on Monday, June 6, 2022, in line with strengthening partnerships between the two higher education bodies in Canada, and their counterpart in Africa – the Association of African Universities.
Universities Canada is a membership organisation which serves as the voice of Canadian universities, providing university presidents with a unified voice for higher education, research and innovation. Formerly known as the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, this higher education body works to advance the mission of its member institutions to transform lives, strengthen communities and find solutions to the most pressing challenges that the world faces. Similarly, the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) serves as the voice of Canada’s colleges and institutes, both in Canada and abroad, on a variety of priority areas including skills for employment, innovation, indigenous education and the sustainable development goals.
The high-level AAU team that received the partners from Canada, on behalf of the Secretary General of the AAU, comprised Mr. Ransford Bekoe (Manager – Partnerships & AAU TV), Dr. Violet Makuku (AAU Quality Assurance Specialist), Mrs. Adeline Addy (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager), Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire (Manager – ACE Impact Project) and Mr. Emmanuel Bamfo Ansong (Procurement Specialist). Other team members included Mr. Abednego Corletey (Senior IT Officer), Mrs. Felicia Nkrumah-Kuagbedzi (Senior Communications Officer), Mrs. Alexandra Johnson (Social Media Officer – AAU TV) and Mr. Agyemang Okyere-Darko (Assistant Manager – AAU TV).
Ms. Julia Scott (Universities Canada) and Ms. Pascale Bedard (CiCan) acknowledged the support of the Association of African Universities to their institutions over the years, and more recently the AAU’s support towards the development and submission of a scholarship focused proposal. The team took the opportunity to brief the AAU about some key initiatives and potential areas of synergies and collaboration with the AAU for the benefit of the stakeholders of the three respective institutions – AAU, CICan and Universities Canada.
The representatives from the AAU underscored the huge capacity resident in the AAU network and the Secretariat to implement key projects for African Higher Education stakeholders. Reference was made to a number of current projects being implemented by the Association in collaboration with various partners including – African Governments, the World Bank and AFD (the African Higher Education Centres of Excellence Project); the International Development Research Centre (Science Granting Councils Research Management and Research Infrastructures Projects); African Union and European Commission ( Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation – HAQAA Initiative), among several others.
Key achievements, targets, as well as strategic priority areas of the Association were also shared with the Canadian team.
Again, the high-quality manpower at the Secretariat in important operational areas such as procurement, finance, ICT, communications, monitoring and evaluation, as well as project management and quality assurance were highlighted. It was mentioned that the AAU had been selected to implement second and third phases of projects due to its ability to successfully deliver on an initial phase of such projects. A case in point is the ACE Impact project, HAQAA and the Science Granting Councils Research Management project.
In an informative presentation made by the ACE Impact Project Manager, Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire on Research & Development and Innovation, the identified key areas of synergies and collaborations included academic partnerships and partnerships with industry and non-academic sector stakeholders.
Elaborating on academic partnerships, it was pointed out that the African Higher Education sector could hugely benefit from initiatives that seek to promote student and faculty exchanges – including summer schools and internships, faculty teaching/research/ training opportunities and external supervision of students. Another key aspect of academic partnerships identified included research collaborations.
Speaking on the specific components of partnerships with industry, Dr. Mkandawire, highlighted that the Centres of Excellence, and more broadly African Higher Education Institutions would benefit from joint research, trainings for technology transfer, Intellectual Property management and entrepreneurship, product development/prototyping and training of students among others.
A key theme that ran through the meetings’ discussions related to the prioritisation of gender inclusivity, with a special focus on the empowerment of women by all the represented institutions, including the ACE Impact project.
Both CICan and Universities Canada reiterated factoring gender inclusivity and equity into all their project initiatives as part of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, while the AAU is highly recognised for taking the lead to drive women and young girls’ equal participation in the higher education sector. The promotion of gender equality is also firmly rooted in the AAU’s current Strategic Plan (2020 -2025)
Ms. Julia Scott (Universities Canada) and Ms. Pascale Bedard (CICan) also visited some partners while in Ghana – including the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) which is hosted by the University of Ghana, and the Ashesi University, a member of the Association of African Universities. The team is also set to visit the African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMs) and other partners relevant to their overall agenda and mission.
Written By: Mrs. Felicia Kuagbedzi, Senior Communications Officer, AAU
Reviewed By: Ms. Nodumo DHLAMINI, Director ICT Services, Communications & Knowledge Management at AAU