Africa-EU Summit pre-event highlights strengthening higher education systems through regional and interregional approach

Ahead of the Africa-EU Summit, a key virtual dialogue was held as an official pre-event during the EU’s ‘Africa Week’. Organised in line with the 2018 Abidjan Declaration of the EU-Africa Partnership, the event focused on fostering growth, development and equity through increased cooperation in higher education between Africa and Europe. With a focus on education and research, the dialogue aimed to build on the achievements of the Abidjan Commitment and address global and local challenges through enhanced cooperation.
The virtual dialogue event brought together prominent figures and experts from the higher education sectors of both regions. Participants shared various experiences and examples of successful Africa-EU higher education cooperation, highlighting its importance in promoting regional and continental cooperation and integration. The event also aimed to identify opportunities for learning from the respective reform processes undertaken by Africa and Europe.

Session 1: Continental and regional frameworks for cooperation and integration

The first session, chaired by Elizabeth Colucci, Global Relations Advisor and Coordinator of the HAQAA2 Initiative at OBREAL Global, featured insightful presentations from key stakeholders. Magalie Soenen, Co-Chair of the Bologna Follow Up Group (BFUG) Global Dialogue, shared valuable lessons from the Bologna Process, while Juma Shubani, Chair of the Higher Education Sub-Cluster of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) and representative of the University of Burundi, discussed lessons learned from African continental harmonisation processes.
Following these presentations, Amanda Crowfoot, Secretary General of the European University Association (EUA), and Olusola Oyewole, Secretary General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), shared their insights. This was followed by a panel discussion with the previous speakers, joined by Gaspard Banyankiboma, Secretary General of the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), and Deirdre Lennan from the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Partnerships (INTPA).

Session 2: Recognition of studies for regional integration

The second session, chaired by Pablo Beneitone, Strategic Advisor at OBREAL Global, focused on the development of regional approaches to recognition and quality assurance. Panelists included Howard Davies, Senior Advisor at the EUA, Jenneke Lokhoff, President of the ENIC/NARIC Network in the Netherlands, Abdoulaye Salifou, Regional Advisor for Higher Education and ICT at the UNESCO Regional Office in Abuja, and Charles Awono Onana, President of the Université des Montagnes in Cameroon.

Conclusions and key messages for the Summit

Maria Kelo, Director of Institutional Development at the EUA, summarised the key takeaways from the event, while Elizabeth Colucci, Advisor for Global Relations at OBREAL Global and Coordinator of the HAQAA2 Initiative, gave the closing remarks. The event concluded with final words from Claire Hermann of the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture and Emmanuel Chigozie of the African Union Commission.

Throughout the dialogue, participants underlined the importance of higher education as a catalyst for regional and continental cooperation, promoting sustainable development, research and trade. The outcomes of the event are expected to contribute significantly to the agenda of the upcoming Africa-EU Summit, advocating for further investment in enabling frameworks and capacity building to advance Africa-EU higher education cooperation.

In charting the course for the next phase of cooperation, the virtual dialogue underlined the inherent linkages between higher education and other policy areas, and highlighted the role of regional and continental policy frameworks in achieving equitable growth and development.

It is expected that the Africa-EU Summit will benefit from the valuable insights gained during this pre-event, laying the foundations for stronger partnerships and concrete actions to promote sustainable and inclusive development in both regions through higher education cooperation.