Bridge-building a priority for Africa network

A consortium of Australian universities is being formed to strengthen relations with African partners and address the challenges faced by people living in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Australia-Africa Universities Network is seeking to build research and teaching collaborations with African universities in priority areas.

It has attracted interest from 17 universities and research institutes, and will be formally established at a meeting in Canberra on 17 July.

The initiative follows on from two forums at the University of Sydney in 2010 and 2011 attended by African ministers and Australian foreign ministers Stephen Smith and Kevin Rudd.

Speaking at the 2011 forum, Ghana’s Minister of Education, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, pointed out that of the 220 Australian mining companies active in Africa, 200 are engaged in non-renewable mineral extraction. And despite its wealth of natural resources, the Continent has just a 2 per cent share of world trade.

“Africa and Australia need to build bridges,” she said. “We need to do more than just take resources out of the Continent.”

John Hearn, Deputy Vice-Chancellor International at Sydney and chair for 2012 of the networks steering group, said: “We must seize this opportunity to revitalise our relationship with Africa.

“There has never been a better time to build successful partnerships with African countries. Three of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa.”

He said that a Senate inquiry in June 2011 put forward 17 recommendations for expanding and strengthening relations between Australia and the countries of Africa.

“Australia has the opportunity to focus on important new areas of assistance and to demonstrate creativity and innovation in working with African partners. Together we can find solutions to long-standing challenges in areas such as governance, health and education,” said Professor Hearn.

Key objectives for the network include:

  • • Providing an intelligence and advisory portal for government, the corporate sector and media, offering a range of expertise on Africa
  • • Developing institutional research partnerships
  • • Developing capacity building and training programs in governance, public sector reform, education, mining, agriculture and health
  • • Producing innovative policy papers with key academics, non-government organisations, business and political representatives
  • • Providing post-training support for African scholars, including an alumni network
  • • Developing activities to foster sustainable partnerships, including forums and workshops, a funding program for academic exchanges and a knowledge-sharing portal.

For more information contact Lisanne Boling in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor International (+61 2 9114 0910).

This article was originally published by Richard North in the University of Sydney’s News page on 11 July 2012.

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