Accra, Ghana, November 15, 2010 – Universities’ role in the development of a more prosperous Africa was advanced last week with the announcement of a new $2.2 million partnership between African and Canadian universities.
Officially launched to coincide with African University Day, this undertaking by the Association of African Universities (AAU) and the Association of Canadian Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) aims to strengthen ties between African universities and local and regional industries to ensure the development of the skills and knowledge to meet Africa’s current economic needs.
“The Government of Ghana is proud to be associated with this new collaborative project,” remarked Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Education Dr. Joseph Annan, who was a keynote speaker at the event.
“The project’s objectives of strategic planning, conducting case studies on university-industry linkages and strengthening the AAU and member-stakeholder relations will not only help to deliver on the association’s mandate, but will also showcase how universities play a central role in the continent’s development,” he said.
As noted during the launch, universities are critical members of today’s knowledge economy, helping to generate a highly skilled workforce as well as the vital networks that bring people, knowledge and infrastructure together.
“With this new initiative, we see the AAU-AUCC relationship moving from strength to strength, supporting a new generation of Africa-Canada university linkages,” observed Canada’s High Commissioner to Ghana Ms. Trudy Kernighan, who also spoke at the event.
No strangers to each other, the AAU approached the AUCC because of Canadian universities’ successful track record in working with the private sector and other key stakeholders. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is providing the financial support for this three-year project.
The theme for this year’s African University Day is the Contribution of African Universities to the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
As part of the partnership, individual African and Canadian universities will team up to plan strategies for increased African university-industry linkages. An example includes the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), in Tarkwa, Ghana and Memorial University of Newfoundland
(MUN) who will work together to establish a cooperative education program at UMaT. As an integral part of the engineering undergraduate program, the new program will train students working in the local oil and gas industry.
Ghana is on the verge of becoming an oil-producing country. Oil production is expected to start at the end of 2010 and based on proven reserves, oil revenues are expected to contribute an estimated four to six percent of GDP over the next five years, according to the International Monetary Fund.
MUN’s cooperative program is a great asset to this initiative according to Dr. John Quaicoe, the dean of engineering and applied science. This project evolved from his visit to the university in Ghana three years ago.
Apart from his Ghanaian roots, Dr. Quaicoe underlines the importance of sharing his knowledge and experience for the benefit of others. “To be able to help a developing country with the genuine desire to have an improved standard of living is the real motivation,” said Dr. Quaicoe. “I feel that we in Canada are quite blessed in terms of our resources, our way of life,” he says. “We will use our experience to work with our colleagues at UMaT to assist in the development of skilled professionals for the oil and gas industry.”
Professor Elias Asiam, dean of international programs at UMaT and a mineral engineer, was among those at the launch and also remarked on his institutions’ new partnership with MUN. “We are the only university in Ghana mandated to train engineers in the oil and gas sector in Ghana and elsewhere,” he noted, adding that UMaT is training not only students from the region but also professionals from other countries’ ministries of mining, including from Nigeria and Liberia.
“We especially appreciate working with MUN as they have been there a long time and we are just starting. They will foresee our challenges and help us with them.”
AAU was established in 1967 by universities in Africa to promote cooperation among themselves and with the international academic community. With a membership of 253 higher education and research institutions from 46 African countries, the association’s vision is to maintain AAU as the representative voice of the African higher education community.
AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities. It represents 95 Canadian public and not-for-profit universities and university-degree level colleges.
Communications, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science