The Association of African Universities (AAU) has identified problems confronting universities on the continent and resolved to tackle them using the stakeholder approach. This was the conclusion at the end of the 15th General Conference of the association held on Zoom between 5th and 8th July 2021. This was contained in the communique released by the Accra secretariat of the association. The conference themed The Future of Higher Education in Africa examined issues such as the future of African higher Education post-COVID-19; contributions of African higher education institutions to addressing the challenges linked to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as contributions of African education institutions in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Other issues focused included funding of African higher education institutions in the face of unpredictable economy; mainstreaming e-learning and digital divide and the contributions of the Diaspora to African Higher Education.
In specifically analyzing the themes of the conference, participants mapped out limited student enrolment, inadequate financial resources; deficient human capital; low research output; suboptimal physical and electronic infrastructures; poor leadership and governance as some of the challenges confronting the education sector at the pre-COVID-19 era. The conference acknowledged that the pandemic exacerbated the pre-COVID problems leading to other challenges such as infrastructural deficit, limited access to affordable high-speed internet connectivity, poor access to and/or unreliable electricity. These problems made it difficult for African Universities to respond to the issues necessitated by the emergence of Coronavirus.
AAU then emphasized the need for African higher institutions to transition to areas such as: digital content creation, online instructional design; training of staff on online teaching, provision of e-Learning infrastructural facilities, support to connect to learning management systems and assistance with online learning strategies, methods and resources. As a way of intervention, the African universities body declared her commitment to initiate and continually support the design of home-grown feasible and effective solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic. The body declared her readiness to partner with prominent Regional Research Education Networks (RRENs); subscribe to large scale academic research infrastructures to encourage African scientists to undertake research in Africa; cultivate and deepen mutual trust among governments at the continental level as well as leverage on international mobility mechanisms such as the European Union initiatives and inter-institutional joint degree programmes to assist universities on the continent. The body equally stated her commitment to promote university-industry linkage with the objective of creating entrepreneurial university to help transform African varsities. AAU urged African institutions of higher learning to harmonize their quality assurance frameworks and develop a quality culture that is embraced by all members.