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In the run up to the 3rd Africa-EU Summit held in Tripoli at the end of November, a preliminary event focused on higher education took place in South Africa. Cape Town was the site of the 23-24 November meeting of African and European stakeholders, under the title “Nyerere/Supporting Academic Mobility and Revitalisation of Higher Education in Africa”. This event was jointly organised by the European Commission and the African Union Commission, in association with the African Association of Universities, the European University Association, and others. Among the stated objectives of the conference, re-launching the Mwalimu Nyerere Scholarship Scheme within a context of tangible European support, and articulating a set of policy recommendations “for the support of higher education capacity building and academic mobility in Africa”, figured prominently. The Nyerere programme aims to increase mobility opportunities within Africa for African students and staff in higher education, as a means of promoting research and capacity building as well as reducing the numbers of qualified graduates leaving for jobs outside the continent.
The higher education side event in Cape Town culminated in a declaration including 12 recommendations for presentation to the Heads of State and Government involved in the Africa-EU summit the following week. Among other key issues, the recommendations touched on the need to acknowledge the critical importance of higher education in efforts to achieve national economic and knowledge objectives; to prioritise higher education as a lynchpin in national development strategies, and to “invest in it accordingly”; to support the role of higher education institutions and partnerships in European development policy; and to strengthen intra- and inter-regional student and staff mobility schemes. The Mwalimu Nyerere Scholarship Scheme was mentioned specifically in this context.
Although official word does not yet seem to be published, indications are that EU involvement in supporting the expanded Nyerere programme will include an injection of funding (up to EUR 35 million) for the period 2010-2014. The European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency may be responsible for administering the first of what may be annual calls for proposals. Proposals may be funded up to EUR 2 million, and will likely be awarded to consortia consisting of 2 to 12 institutions representing at least 3 of 5 identified regions in Africa. Mobility scholarships for students at the master’s and doctoral level are anticipated, as is funding support for staff mobility. Many details are yet to be officially confirmed, but more news should be forthcoming on this front in 2011.