Enhancing Higher Education’s Engagement in International Development: Africa-U.S. Partnerships

By Peter H. Koehn, Montague W. Demment and Anne-Claire Hervy.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Increasingly, scholars and donors concerned with international development are focusing on Africa. From a continental perspective, Africa presents the pivotal development challenge of our time. When measured against income and human-development indicators, most African countries rank at or near the bottom in world-wide tallies. At the same time, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development has inspired renewed commitment among many African leaders to sustainable development efforts. Serious interest in investing in Africa is finally emerging within the private business sector. Foundations are supporting an astonishing array of major development initiatives on the continent. The article explores the role of higher-education institutions in the emerging African development thrust. The focus is on prospects for enriching collaborative partnerships involving one or more U.S. and Sub-Saharan African tertiary-education institutions. Although such partnerships have a long history of developing human capacity on the continent, many have withered or died in recent decades as donors shifted attention to basic education and other sectors in the wake of World Bank reports that cast doubt on the value of university education in African development. More recent studies have demonstrated that important returns to national economies in Africa are indeed associated with higher-education investments. In the face of a growing human-capital crisis in Africa, we are concerned with identifying potential avenues for increasing the resources available for African research and development projects undertaken through new and strengthened higher-education partnerships (HEPs). We explore three strategic dimensions of building support for Africa-U.S. higher-education partnerships. First, we consider HEPs as models for addressing development needs, documenting successful case studies of past and present collaboration. This discussion centers on agriculture because agriculture accounts for at least 40 percent of the GDP of most African economies and employs 70 percent of the workforce. The cases presented will draw upon the experience of publicly-supported CRSPs (Collaborative Research Support Programs), a successful program that focuses on development problems and simultaneously builds human and institutional capacity. Second, we examine the informational infrastructure needed to facilitate linkages, collaborative initiatives, and policy enhancements through the development of complementary databases of university overseas research and development partnerships and opportunities. NASULGC’s current International Development Project Database initiative and the Partnership to Cut Hunger & Poverty in Africa’s Landscape Review are featured in this discussion. We conclude with recommendations on ways to enhance the research and development collaboration of U.S. and African higher-education institutions by increasing the available resource base. The concluding discussion focuses on the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Keywords: Africa, Higher Education, Partnerships, International Development, Tertiary Education

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 6, pp.127-140. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 630.875KB).

Dr. Peter H. Koehn

Faculty Fellow for International Development, International, University of Montana, Missoula, USA

Peter Koehn is Professor of Political Science at The University of Montana and a Fulbright New Century Scholar. During fall 2007, he was Faculty Fellow for International Development at the National Association of State Universities & Land Grant Colleges. Koehn has taught at universities in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Namibia, and Eritrea and currently directs the University of Montana’s undergraduate minor in International Development Studies. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, numerous book chapters, and eight books, including Making Aid Work: Innovative Approaches for Africa at the Turn of the Century (University Press of America, 1999) with Olatunde J.B. Ojo.

Dr. Montague W. Demment

Associate Vice President, International Development, International, University of California, Davis, USA

Dr. Montague W. Demment is Director of the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program, a program funded by USAID and the US university community, and professor of ecology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Demment also serves as Associate Vice President for International Development at NASULGC, where he is focused on the role of higher education in development. Demment served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia working in the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Department. He has worked for NIH in Cameroon, Kenya, and Ethiopia on primate ecology, done consultancies on development in West Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia, Sub Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. A native of New York, Demment earned his BA from Harvard in Architectural Sciences, his MS and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Zoology. He received an NIH postdoctoral fellowship to study animal nutrition at Cornell before arriving at UC Davis in 1982.

Anne-Claire Hervy

Congressional Hunger Fellow, Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative, Washington, DC, USA

Anne-Claire Hervy is a Mickey Leland Congressional Hunger Fellow with the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa. In this position, Anne-Claire is involved in leading the Partnership’s joint initiative with NASULGC on Africa-US Higher Education Collaboration. She holds an MA in International History from the London School of Economics and is currently a doctoral student at American University, working toward a degree in International Relations at the School of International Service. Her dissertation research is concerned with NGO effectiveness, focusing on the obstacles that prevent the formation of genuine, collaborative partnerships between international NGOs and organizations from developing countries, and that hamper local ownership of relief and development processes. This research led Anne-Claire in March 2006 to organize and lead a three-week research trip to Sri Lanka to examine these issues as they have played out in the reconstruction effort following the Indian Ocean tsunami. For the past three years, Anne-Claire has also worked in communications and program evaluation for Manna Inc, a DC-based affordable housing organization.


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