A Modern Africa
Universities can spur development
Q&A A LEADING AUTHORITY in the field of international development, Calestous Juma, director of the Belfer Center’Äôs Science, Technology, and Globalization Project, is currently looking at how higher education in Africa can be reinvented to be an ’Äúengine of community development.’Äù Juma was recently elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of London for his work on the application of science and technology in developing and developed countries. The Bulletin recently spoke with Juma about his research.
>>> What are some of the new challenges facing African universities?
In post-colonial Africa, the main challenge was how to create an African civil service to run the independent state. Today African universities still focus on training for the civil service and, as a consequence, remain disconnected from contemporary concerns such as economic development. Africa faces two major challenges: recognizing the importance of knowledge in economic growth and reforming universities so they contribute to development.
>>> What are some of these reforms?
First, university curricula need to be adapted to long-term development goals. Second, adjustments are needed in pedagogy to relate education to practical reality. Finally, careful attention should be paid to the location of universities so they can directly serve local needs.
>>> How can private enterprises support higher education in Africa?
They can begin by serving as incubators of a new generation of universities that seek to solve practical problems. The telecommunications industry, for example, could serve as a midwife for training programs in electronic engineering and other related fields. Similarly, the mining industry can help support new programs in the geosciences. African governments can expand such opportunities by providing incentives and policy guidance for the creation of such programs.
>>> You have often used Rwanda’Äôs Vision 2020 as an example of what can be accomplished. Can you explain?
Rwanda is doing for telecommunications what Britain did with mechanization during the Industrial Revolution: using new technology as a driving force for economic development. President Paul Kagame is providing leadership in redefining economic growth in technological terms and offering a new development model for Africa. ’Äî LT