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Sharing the wealth by sharing the knowledge – call for cooperation between American universities and developing countries

African nations are looking to
colleges and universities in the United States
to help solve the continent’s problems of
poverty, insecurity and a lack of government
accountability, a member of the Ugandan
Parliament said here recently.

“We want to take technology at any
level,” said Manuel Pinto, who is also a
member of the New York-based
Parliamentarians for Global Action.
Elaborating on his wish list, Pinto added:
“We want programs such as life skills, simple
math, communication skills,
supervising work, record keeping and
transactions, and simple agriculture projects
to produce high-yield crops. We want these
to link up with African colleges and
universities in partnerships to provide
vocational and industrial training.”

According to Pinto, the partnerships are
necessary to ensure that African nations
benefit through associations with American
“Often researchers come to Africa to do
work that benefits them and not us and many
times they don’t even publish what they
find,” he explained.

Pinto’s invitation to American universities
came during a conference at the University of
Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The conference was
called to begin a process through which
universities and colleges can assist in
economic and human development around the

About seventy government officials,
academicians, union leaders and students from
the United States, Africa and Europe attended
the conference, titled Human Development
and Economic Growth.

The 1996 Human Development Report
prepared by the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP), the world’s anti-poverty
agency, was the centerpiece of the two-day
conference that was held earlier this month. It
was the first time the annual report, initially
published in 1990, had been presented at a
campus in the United States.

The conference was sponsored by the
PEOPLE Program (Public Elected Officials
and Others Providing Leadership and
Exchange) in Chicago and UIC’s Institute of
Government and Public Affairs, the Institute
for Research on Race and Comparative Public
Policy, and the College of Urban Planning and
public Affairs.

The conference is also connected to a
meeting held in May at UIC which discussed
the role of Black intellectuals and the Black
community in policy formation, organizers

The report ranks developed and developing
countries based on a human
development index that measures life
expectancy, educational attainment and
income. For example, the index ranks the
United States as first in the world, but if
African Americans were measured alone they
would be ranked thirty-first in the world–comparable
to Trinidad and Tobago. In past
reports, males in Bangladesh have been ranked
with higher life expectancies than African
American males in Harlem.

In opening remarks, Djibril Diallo, the
UNDP’s director of public affairs, said, “We
strongly feel that unless people in rich and
poor countries work together to build a more
equitable society, the transition to the
twenty-first century will be fraught with
insurmountable problems for all countries.”

Through a network of 134 countries, the
UNDP supports development activities in
more than 170 nations and territories,
according to Diallo, who explained, “Our main
areas of focus are poverty eradication, job
creation, advancement of women, protection
of the environment and good governance.”

The UIC conference is part of a series
of meetings begun at the London School of
Economics to build partnerships with colleges
and universities to search for solutions to
challenges facing the world.
Said Diallo: “We hope to use the results
of this conference as a bridge to reach out to
other universities in this country. We gather
at a time when the world community needs
most desperately to come together, when the
catch-phrase `globalization’ is part of every
official speech and when change leads to vast
riches for some and abject poverty for

He then asked: “What is really happening
in this shrinking world? Who is benefitting
and who is losing? What are the strengths and
weakness of globalization?”

The partnerships discussed at the
conference were not limited to campuses in
the United States and Africa. Native
Americans also want to develop links with
HBCUs and European colleges, said E.L.
“Buzz” Palmer, president of the PEOPLE
Program and an UIC advisor.

Colleges and universities can use new
technologies to help nations improve the
quality of life, according to Palmer, who said
similar meetings are planned next year at
Harvard University and the University of

“We are moving to a new generation that
will include distance learning that could be
interactive so that a student in Uganda could
receive education from UIC. Now the major
problem with universities is they tend to be
insular and elitist,” said Palmer. “The reality
is, if properly utilized, universities could
become major locomotives for change for not
only students but also the general society.”

The quality of life around the world is
improving at a time when the economic gap
between rich and poor nations is growing
wider, said Meghnad Desai, director of the
Center for the Study of Global Governance
and professor of economics at the London
School of Economics.

On average, people in developing nations
are living longer and are better educated–social
gains which cannot be measured solely by a
rise and fall of personal income, said Desai, a
Labor Party representative in Great Britain’s
House of Lords.

The increase in human development
worldwide, he said, is the result of effective,
low-cost programs and sound public
administration, “and once these advances are
made you don’t lose them easily.”

But he warned that in the long-term,
social gains are threatened by the widening
economic gap between developed and
developing nations.
Many Asian and Middle Eastern
countries are moving up economically, while
poor African nations are still poor or getting
poorer, he said.

According to Desai, a marginalization of
developing countries and people is the result
of a globalized economy that allows for the
free movement of money worldwide. And
because of an unrestricted movement of
capital, nations have limited autonomy over
interest rates, exchange rates and some
financial policies. The competition for jobs
and money is worldwide, he said.

“Globalization is creating challenges and
opportunities for poor and rich nations alike,”
Desai said in an interview.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates

© Copyright 2005 by

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