Reimaging the Future of Higher Education in Africa: A Look at the 4th ARUA Biennial International Conference

22 November, 2023

The 4th African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Biennial International Conference was colourfully held at the University of Lagos in Lagos, Nigeria from 14th–17th November 2023. The event convened academics, researchers and students from African and non-African universities as well as other relevant stakeholders. The theme of the conference was: “Reimagining the Future of Higher Education in Africa”.

Professor Grace Otinwa delivering the introductory remarks.

The introductory remarks on the opening day were offered by Professor Grace Otinwa, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee, University of Lagos, followed by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, ARUA Secretary-General, after which the conference was officially opened by Honourable Commissioner Mr. Tolani Sule, Lagos State Commissioner for Tertiary Education.

Professor Pamela Machakanja (far left), Dr. Adinew Tadesse, Ms. Ayan Yusuf Ali, Ms. Faheema Haji Ahmed Haji Ibrahim, and Dr. William H. Arrey.

The points of discussion for the roundtable included: (i.) what roles higher education institutions are playing to deal with conflict and post-conflict societies in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Somaliland. This including best practices, and the shortcomings that need to be improved; (ii.) the close link between peace and the achievement of sustainable development, and how sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace; (iii.) the dynamic nature of conflict and how conflict interventions that have worked in the past may not necessarily work currently; (iv.) the rate of penetration for peace and security studies programmes in higher education institutions in Africa; (v.) the importance of using both modern and traditional conflict management mechanisms as appropriate; (vi.) the importance of dialogue for peacebuilding; and (vii.) the relevance of offering psychological support to communities that have undergone traumatic experiences as a result of conflict.

To conclude, it was emphasized that higher education institutions in Africa need to: (i.) design more programmes that are relevant to post-conflict societies; (ii.) have more grassroots engagement in the community; (iii.) promote the culture of peace and dialogue; (iv.) take notes of lessons learnt; and (v.) be beacons of peace.

Dr. Mercy Fekadu (left) and Professor Kehinde O. Olayode (right)

In line with the theme, the programme for the conference included plenary sessions, roundtables, poster presentations, and speeches all centred on the future of higher education in Africa. Aside from the enticing programme line-up, the conference offered plenty of opportunity for networking. The discussions delved into the conference theme from various viewpoints and contexts, and, inter alia, pointed out good practices, challenges and recommendations, as well as the prospects of higher education in Africa.

The ARUA Centre of Excellence in Post-Conflict Societies, Institute for Pace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University organized a roundtable under the title: “Reimagining Higher Education in Post-Conflict Societies”. The roundtable was chaired by Dr. Mercy Fekadu, Director of the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Post-Conflict Societies, and featured the following academicians and researchers representing African universities that the Centre is actively collaborating with. The representatives included Professor Pamela Machakanja, Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabaw;  Professor Kehinde O. Olayode, Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State, Nigeria; Dr. William H. Arrey, Protestant University of Central Africa, Yaoundé, Cameroon; Dr. Adinew Tadesse, Haramaya University, Haramaya, Ethiopia; and Ms. Ayan Yusuf Ali and Ms. Faheema Haji Ahmed Haji Ibrahim, University of Hargeisa, Hargeisa, Somaliland.