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Six Foundations Commit $200 Million to Higher Education In Africa Over the Next Five Years

Characterizing African universities as necessary contributors to the continent’s future development, governance and peace, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan joined the presidents of six of the largest U.S. foundations in announcing a $200 million commitment by the foundations over the next five years to further strengthen higher education in seven African nations. 

The investment by the foundations includes more than $5 million that will enable a consortium of African universities to obtain eight times the amount of Internet bandwidth available to them as recently as two years ago. The cost will be less than one-third the rate paid by most African institutions. The consortium has entered into an agreement with Intelsat, a global satellite operator, to provide the bandwidth.

The announcement represents a significant renewal of support for African universities from the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, which was originally launched in 2000 by Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ford, MacArthur and Rockefeller Found-ations. Over the past five years, the foundations contributed more than $150 million to build core capacity and support special initiatives at universities in six nations: Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Kenya has joined as the seventh nation this year. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have now joined the partnership as contributors. 

“This is an outstanding display of global citizenship,” says Annan. “We need to train teachers and build up research capacity; we need to strengthen open universities and distance learning programs; and we need to ensure that African institutions have access to the latest technologies.”

“Our partnership began five years ago with the recognition that a quiet revolution was taking place in Africa making universities once again a source of innovation, training and scholarship,” says Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. “This effort expands our commitment to the renaissance of African higher education and to its importance in Africa’s future development.”

The partner foundations and other development institutions have witnessed considerable progress within universities participating in the partnership, in ways that bear directly on development and economic progress in their respective nations. 

“African universities that combine excellent, world-class education with programs of practical training are vital to progress, and it is heartening to see them emerge,” says Dr. Jonathan Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation. “Technology is an essential bridge to that progress and development.” 

The bandwidth initiative supported by the Foundations will initially allow several universities to share 93,000 kilobits per second of Internet bandwidth each month, paying an average cost of $2.33 per kbps per month. Most African universities currently pay an average of $7.30 per kbps per month. As recently as two years ago, the total bandwidth available to them was only 12,000 kbps. 

Commenting on the progress underway at many African universities, Dr. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation says, “Knowledge, innovation and talent are critical currencies needed to thrive in today’s interconnected world, and Africa’s universities are increasingly looked upon to generate the ideas and talent necessary to address Africa’s challenges, on Africa’s terms.” 

“The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa represents our commitment to Africa’s next generation of leaders, who deserve an exemplary education to prepare them to help set the course for their nations’ futures,” says Dr. Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation. “We expect the universities in which we invest to become the foundation of a higher education network that will serve all of Africa for decades to come.”

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