Young Africans who feel “alienated” depart the continent.

In fact, many young Africans of them are showing signs of dislike for their own countries and are looking for opportunities to leave for greener pastures, said Harriette Amissah-Arthur, an executive partner and co-founder of Arthur Energy Advisors, a business advisory service to the energy sector across West Africa.

At a forum to discuss how to assess the strategies of universities in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve citizenship, Amissah-Arthur said young people “simply don’t like the countries they live in, and higher education is not training them to be citizens and so, what is happening is that they are only being trained to leave”.

The Times Higher Education Sub-Saharan Africa Universities Forum hosted the event on 26 June as part of the launch of its inaugural ranking of institutions on the continent. The theme was about revolutionising African higher education. It was hosted at Ashesi University, a private institution in Accra, Ghana.

Amissah-Arthur cited a prevailing culture and tradition in which young people are not allowed to challenge leaders as a problem that needed to be tackled. She suggested that space must be created for young people to express themselves more, adding that, “leaders of higher education must protect the space for young people to feel free to express their thoughts”.

Academic migration

John Gyapong, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ghana, said the migration started many years ago. He mentioned that of his medical school graduation class only five people have remained in Ghana, adding that there is the need for interventions to make people stay in their countries.

Gyapong said the financing and massification of education in Ghana, through the free senior high school programme, which is producing more students than the universities can accommodate, has contributed to a congestion in the system.

Nevertheless, there are pockets of excellence. However, what is lacking is the opportunity to pick up skills. Therefore, what is required is that the industry interfaces with the universities to help impact skills that are needed.

Professor Peter Okebukola, the chairman of the Nigerian Universities Ranking Advisory Committee, said the Nigerian government is only providing an enabling environment for higher education institutions to train people for the global market.

Okebulola said the position of the Nigerian government has always been not to hold anyone down as this has led to Nigerians proving themselves in every sphere, wherever they find themselves. “The Nigerian Universities Commission has significantly improved tertiary education in the country,” he added.

He said there are currently 14,000 full professors across the country’s 263 universities, adding that it is not for the universities to create a conducive environment for the country, because that is the role of the government.

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Elaine Cunningham-Walker, a board member of the non-governmental organisation, Girl Code Africa, who contributed during a session on how African universities can be vehicles for socioeconomic progress, said that one of the challenges that has been noticed within the higher education institutions on the continent is the lack of internship opportunities for the students to improve their skills to meet the job market.

Cunningham-Walker said that the talent pool is huge and so, there was the need to involve the industry to partner with universities and incorporate apprenticeships to provide the skills to graduates.

She said that critical thinking and career development have not been allowed to develop on the continent and it has somehow not helped the students to think outside the box.

Professor Nelson Ijumba, the international research and innovation programme manager at the Africa Hub, based at Coventry University in Kigali, Rwanda, said that collaboration with industry has seen some improvement. He added that the African Research Universities Alliance, or ARUA, through the World Bank and the Africa Centres of Excellence has enabled students to study anywhere on the continent.

Other participants at the forum included: Evelyn Chiyevo Garwe, pro vice-chancellor (academic), IBS University, Papua New Guinea; Makobetsa Khati, the executive director of Research Chairs and Centres of Excellence at the National Research Foundation of South Africa; and Jean Rattigan-Rohr, the former vice-president for Access and Success, Elon University, United States.

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