Reaching out to ‘United States of Africa’

Milindo Chakrabarti | Updated on January 22, 2018

India’s education sector can drive a mutually beneficial human resources exchange to realise Africa’s long-term goals

The Third India-Africa Forum Summit will be held in New Delhi from October 26 to 29. Leaders from all 54 African nations have been invited. Fifty countries have already confirmed their participation. India would be keen to strengthen her time-tested partnership with the African nations. In tune with the spirit of South-South Cooperation (SSC), a plan would obviously centre around the principles of respect for national sovereignty, non-interference and mutual benefit.

What can be a better wishlist than Agenda 2063 adopted by the African Union a couple of years back?

African agenda

The aspirations enumerated in the agenda document calls for the creation of the United States of Africa by 2063 with an eye for inclusive growth and sustainable development, that upholds good governance, democracy and respect for human rights.

The goals listed for achievement at national and regional levels include: a high standard of living, quality of life and wellbeing for all citizens; well educated citizens and a skills revolution underpinned by science, technology and innovation; transformed economies and jobs; modern agriculture for increased production, productivity and value addition; and environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities.

The India-Africa Forum Summit would sincerely look for ways to help Africa achieve these goals. The targets set by the Agenda document are quite clear:

10 per cent of the degrees awarded by universities/polytechnics in computer science and information technology by 2040

50 per cent of all degrees awarded by universities/polytechnics in the engineering sciences by 2040

10 per cent of degrees awarded by universities/polytechnics in the bio/health sciences and bio-technology by 2040

all secondary school students without access to tertiary education to have free access to vocational education by 2030.

India enjoys a considerably high competitive advantage in offering opportunities for higher education to students from the African nations. It is visible from the increasing flow of students from these countries joining Indian universities — both public and private (often on self-financed basis) — over the last decade or so.

Indian higher education is not only cost effective, it is advantageous in that it is being offered in English.

India’s ambitious skill development programme will also be in sync with the demands emanating out of African Agenda 2063. Scholarships offered to students from developing countries for pursuing higher education in India are also significantly high.

An action plan of cooperation between India and the African countries may involve:

Exchange of students who would be potential knowledge managers and innovators of the future at secondary, vocational and tertiary levels

Joint degree multi-campus programmes offered by Indian and African institutions of higher learning

Exchange of researchers and faculty members

Inter-university research consortia in specialised fields of knowledge like climate smart technology in agriculture and manufacturing, sustainable mining, natural resource management, inclusive business, green accounting, local and regional value chain analysis

Sharing of vocational training facilities among small enterprises located in India and Africa

As is being argued in multiple forums on the desired contours of SSC, it is imperative that the scope of cooperation be extended beyond the state. Simultaneous engagement of the private sector and civil society organisations is called for.

Indian requirements

The Indian education sector needs internal reforms to render it attractive to the global student community in the following way:

First, accreditation of academic institutions in ensuring their capabilities to engage in globalised learning and support to cultural diversity on campuses

Second, support from diplomatic channels in facilitating identification of potential academic partnerships

Third, credible business-academia linkage to facilitate hands-on learning by institutionalising corporate internship — within both large and small enterprises

Fourth, strong civil society-academia linkage to encourage understanding of socio-cultural ground realities and environmental aspects

Such changes will also enhance the capabilities of domestic students considerably.

The writer teaches at the School of Business Studies, Sharda University, and is a visiting fellow at RIS, New Delhi. The views are personal

Published on October 09, 2015

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