Innovating Education Expo In Africa Unleashes Potential For Creativity

In the global university rankings ten years ago, Max Price, the University of Cape Town’s then-president, made a compelling argument for Africa to compete with the best in the world.

Innovating Education Expo In Africa Unleashes Potential For Creativity
In comparison to four in 2012, there are now 97 African universities listed in THE World University Rankings. The improvement has largely been a result of increased public accountability and government spending. The change will stop the continent’s brain drain and promote economic growth.

In the global university rankings ten years ago, Max Price, the University of Cape Town’s then-president, made a compelling argument for Africa to compete with the best in the world.

He stated in 2012’s issue of Times Higher Education (THE) that “there are good reasons why the creation of new knowledge should not be the preserve of the rich and powerful countries in the world.”

Many people in Africa questioned the significance of the US-dominated global university rankings in the developing world, but Price argued that it wasn’t just an ideological or national pride issue, like the Olympic medals tables might be.

Instead, it concerns economic growth as developing nations become high-tech knowledge economies.This is about being future explorers and shapers, not just passive consumers of innovation and ideas, he said.

Price can feel vindicated ten years later. Only four African universities—his own university in Cape Town, two others in South Africa, and one in Egypt—were listed in THE World University Rankings at the time of his article. There are now 97, compared to just 27 in 2005 and 71 in 2022. It has been amazing to see the change.

In the most recent rankings, five nations—Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—all from Africa—entered for the first time ever.

There are now 17 African nations in the ranking overall, up from just two in 2012 and nine in 2018. In general, African universities have improved more quickly than the global average in all 13 of the performance indicators used in the world rankings, which cover teaching, research, innovation, and internationalisation.

Nigeria has experienced the world’s fastest economic growth over the past five years, according to research (measured through research citations).

The African Union’s Agena 2063 masterplan for transforming Africa into a global powerhouse calls for a “revitalization” of “tertiary education, research and innovation to … promote global competitiveness”. African countries will benefit from a growing network of top international universities by attracting top talent from outside the continent as well as halting the brain drain. They will entice foreign investment and effective research partnerships.

They will contribute to ensuring that Africans are at the forefront of technological advancement and the creation of new knowledge for thriving, transformed knowledge-driven economies. They will support the development of Africa’s best talent, producing the next generation of active, productive citizens who will uphold democracy and peace.

Peter Okebukola, Chairman of Nigeria’s National Universities Ranking Committee (NURAC) and President of the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi-Africa), believes that the African surge in the rankings is due to a strategic push within universities to become “world class”.

Public pressure has also been applied, as poorly ranked universities are ridiculed by the press and social media, and accountability over scarce public funding is set at a higher notch.

Governments in Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have increased funding for research and infrastructural development. Success breeds success with a “brand effect” as higher rankings attract international students and research grants.

In Nigeria, a 2030 strategic plan for improving global rankings has an investment of $6 billion and is expected to accelerate the rise of Nigerian universities to global ranking limelight.

According to Okebukola, the emergence of national ranking systems and performance metrics, which “stimulate healthy competition and lead to the emergence of national champions who end up with stellar performance on global rankings,” is another important factor in Africa’s success in the global rankings.

Sub-Saharan Africa is slated for its own bespoke new ranking, developed in Africa to meet African needs and supported by the Mastercard Foundation and THE, to support this emerging new culture of data collection and benchmarking.

The Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings will include metrics for resources and infrastructure, access and fairness, instruction and graduate employment, student engagement, and impact on Africa (including an analysis of how universities contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals).

The new performance framework at the University of Oxford aims to help African universities realize their potential.

Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, believes that the continent’s current surge in the global rankings is a welcome development, as it helps to build both activity and recognition, which in turn further builds connectedness.

John Kufuor, former president of Ghana and a past president of the African Union, believes that education, particularly higher education, will take Africa into the mainstream of globalization.