Debate: What is the future of higher education funding in Africa?

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Copyright: Marc Shoul / Panos

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Our online debate was held on 28 July, questioning the future of education and funding in African universities. 2015 was an explosive year for South African higher education, with protests at colleges and campuses across the country. As the student-led #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements gathered momentum, they sparked nationwide discussions on what ‘equal access’ to education means in an era of escalating fees, rising unemployment and sluggish social mobility  — and on the state of social justice in South Africa today, 22 years after the end of apartheid.

2015 and 2016 have also seen protests and debates at universities across the continent on who will, and should, pay for higher education. Under the spotlight has been the question of how to make education accessible to millions of young students, in a continent with the fastest growing youth population in the world: 43 per cent of the population are under 15 years old. At the same time, Africa’s universities and research institutes are tasked with producing independent, socially relevant research, within a global higher education sector increasingly shaped by privatisation, the commercialisation of research, and academic job insecurity.
In this online debate we brought together students, academics and higher education experts from across the continent discussed the next steps for higher education funding in Africa. The debate focused on: what the problems are; how to pay for higher education and research; the risks and opportunities of new funding channels; and how to ensure equal access while raising the cash to produce high quality, locally relevant research within a tough global higher education sector.

Read the results in the comments section below or via Twitter hashtag #AfricaUni


Josepha Foba is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Buea, Cameroon. Josepha has over 20 years of teaching and research experience, and over 16 years of university research management. She has a keen interest in the development of women, the promotion of excellence in African research and innovation systems, as well as sustainability in research and development.

Mariéme Jamme is a Senegalese-born British businesswoman specialising in technology. Her consultancy company, SpotOne Global Solutions, helps technology companies get a foothold in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. She has been named one of the 100 most influential Africans by the African Business Magazine and 20 youngest powerful women by Africa Forbes. She is co-founder of Africa Gathering and Accur8Africa, and founder of a new movement called www.iamthecode.org #iamthecode  

Brian Kamanzi is a student activist and writer, who participated in the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements. He studied engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Thandi Mgwebi is director of research and director of the South Africans Systems Analysis Centre at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Currently she is also co-chair of the World Sustainability Forum 2017. She is recognised as a leading authority on research and innovation management, including postgraduate support. 

Abiodun Momodu is senior research fellow at the Centre for Energy Research and Development at Obafemi Awowolo University in Nigeria. He has a PhD in energy planning and system modelling from the African Institute of Science, Policy and Innovation, Obafemi Awowolo University in Nigeria 

Keolebogile Shirley Motaung is a professor and assistant dean of   Postgraduate Studies, Research & Innovation, at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Pretoria, South Africa

Beatrice Muganda is director of higher education at the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), in Nairobi, Kenya. Beatrice is an education policy practitioner promoting partnerships for graduate teaching of social science research and public policy

Paul Nampala is grants manager at the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a network of 60 member universities in Africa, headquartered in Kampala, Uganda. He is a graduate of Makerere University and the University of Liverpool and holds a PhD in crop pest ecology. 

Michael Okoh deputy dean of the faculty of basic medical sciences at the University of Abuja, Nigiera. He is also the national coordinator for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). He holds a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Helsinki, Finland


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