The lack of external agencies investing in higher education in Africa poses a “real danger to the continent”. So said Gebisa Ejeta, World Food Prize winner and Purdue University professor, at a morning session at GCARD today.
He called for a resurgence of donor interest in higher education.
“One thing that could derail past gains [in agricultural research for development] in Africa is the declining human capacity base on the continent.”
Higher education is fundamental to improving all aspects of agricultural research for development, he said.
African governments seem aware of this. Governments are busy putting up buildings and students are filling them in large numbers – but the quality of education they’re receiving is weak, said Ejeta.
His call for a refocus on higher education was seconded by Adnan Badram, former prime minister of Jordan, who emphasised the need for “targeted education that can solve national problems”.
Nina Federoff, science and technology advisor to the US Secretary of State, also agreed. “Just 30 years ago, USAID educated some 20,000 students—today it’s less than 1,000. That has to be reversed,” she said.
The plea to donors to invest in higher education is hardly new. More than one year ago, we published a spotlight examining this very issue (see Aid for higher education). But the more calls for donor support — particularly from key players such as Ejeta and Federoff — the better.