Statement by Prof Adipala Ekwamu, RUFORUM Executive Secretary to The University of Liberia Founder’s Day International Conference- 15 & 16 February 2022:

The Role of Higher Education in the Sub-Region: Prospects and Challenges

Context: Like in other parts of the world, Higher education is critical for developing the requisite human capital for knowledge generations, technology and innovation advancement and hence directly influences the country’s or region’s competitiveness. In comparison to other parts of the world, this is where Africa is very weak. We are decades behind other parts of the world and we must therefore make strategic decisions on where we invest.

But for Higher education to be effective and relevant there must be strong horizontal and vertical linkages with other actors. Accordingly for Liberian and other Universities in the continent:

  1. We must put Higher Education at the service of development in Africa through adoption of strategies for evaluating capacities and curricula to meet the needs of national development aspirations, economic growth and employment. In this regard:

a. We must link our human capital development to the needs of the labour market

b. We must invest in fast tracking generation of innovations for supporting economic development while giving attention to rural transformation and advancement- this is critical for demonstrating relevance of our Universities. There must be a deliberate link to communities and industry

c. We must ensure the knowledge we generate inform policy and we must engage in policy dialogue

But how do we do this?  Here lie the challenges:

  1. We have a spiraling demand for Higher Education with no  significant increase in infrastructure and teaching and skilling capacities
  2. We have limited differentiation in our Higher education Systems- we need to give more attention to TVET and Community Schools, something Liberia was doing and I hope continues to perfect
  3.  We have an increasing education divide making education, especially higher education, a privilege for the wealthy and urban communities. This requires bold policy intervention
  4.  We have low labour productivity- therefore we need to improve labour productivity through skilling and Science, Technology and Innovation solutions to meet especially local but also regional and global skills for creating opportunities for increasing rural income and participating in cash economies
  5. We must strengthen partnerships that provide equitable opportunities for all through co-development, co-ownership and joint implementation
  6. We need to promote knowledge sharing and mobility across the continent and across different levels of education, between universities and research institutions and universities & Private sector
  7.  We must promote inclusivity- increasing women enrollment in Higher Education and building capacity for the less endowed institutions and States

To address some of the above, RUFORUM is working with African Governments to implement four continental Initiatives:

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