Network reaches out to Africa

A hunger for education fuelled by booming economic growth across much of the vast African continent is behind the launch yesterday of the Australian-African Universities Network.

The AAUN aims to build research and teaching collaborations in priority areas of sub-Saharan Africa, said its chairman, University of Sydney deputy vice-chancellor (international) John Hearn.

AAUN is a consortium of 17 Australian universities working in partnership with their African equivalents.

Speaking at the launch at the Australian National University, Professor Hearn said the AAUN would focus on developing several key priority areas. These included institutional research partnerships to build expertise in governance, public-sector reform, public health, food security and the mining sector.

“The key issue is our African partners won’t be slow in developing these linkages,” he said. The initial network was expected to involve four African universities, including Stellenbosch and Pretoria in South Africa and Makere in Kenya.

Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Dennis Richardson, who was based in Nairobi from 1969-71 as a junior diplomat, noted a shift in perceptions about the continent.

In 2000 The Economist carried a front-page story describing Africa as the “hopeless continent”; last year it ran another feature, this time lauding opportunities, he said.

In 2010 DFAT created its first African branch and has diplomatic relations with all 52 states. Australia would provide more than 1000 educational scholarships for Africans this year, Mr Richardson said.

This article was originally published by Mark Dodd in The Australian on 18 July 2012.

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