Mr Thabo Mbeki’s call to African universities to be pillars of continental progress during the Times Higher Education’s inaugural Africa Universities Summit in Johannesburg is timely. Mbeki observes that the continent’s higher education institutions are “impoverished,” “weakened” and “marginalized” in terms of their roles in development and their relationships with the state. African universities have over the years scored dismally on global rankings, with only South Africa and Egypt taking favourable slots.
In the backdrop of serious challenges facing the continent in terms of unemployment, radicalization, death from treatable diseases, violent conflicts, dictatorships, warped development priorities, famine and corruption, among others, African universities must take the lead in generating viable solution-giving ideas and engaging in the uplifting of communities.
Africa's Century will not be realized when the continent's academicians are mere parasites dependent on research outcomes and methodologies from the rest of the world. We must develop enlightened men and women through overhauling the continent's educational curricular and fine-tuning it to be a key driver of research and thought leadership. Political leaders must not view universities as centres of political opposition but repositories of vital knowledge.