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Why attend the 15th AAU General Conference?

The General Conferences of the Association of African Universities is normally a five-day event centered around Higher Education in Africa. On the 5-8 July 2021, the AAU will be holding its 15th General Conference.

The theme of the Conference is:
The Future of African Higher Education
In addition to Keynote Presentations on the theme of the Conference, there will be papers and presentations dealing with the following six (6) sub-themes:
  • Sub-Theme 1: The Future of African Higher Education Post-COVID-19
  • Sub-Theme 2: Contributions of African Higher Education Institutions to Addressing the Challenges linked to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Sub-Theme 3: Contributions of African Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
  • Sub-Theme 4: Funding of African Higher Education Institutions in the face of unpredictable Economy
  • Sub-Theme 5: Mainstreaming e-learning and the digital divide
  • Sub-Theme 6: Contributions of the Diaspora to African Higher Education
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Fees and Registration

The Event is FREE for all Participants


Goodwill Messages

  • Narciso Matos
    AAU@50 is undoubtedly a great occasion, one to be celebrated with joy and dignity. Much has been accomplished in the continent and in each of our nations, thanks first and foremost to the leadership and devotion of academics and scientists working in our campuses, the vice chancellors, deans and leaders at various levels, technical and administrative staff and not least our vibrant and not seldom impatient students. Through its constituent members, the executive board and the able and devoted staff of the secretariat in Accra, Ghana, the AAU has significantly contributed to what we are today. It has established itself as a leading forum for cooperation, learning from each other and interaction with scientists, academics and higher education institutions word-wide.   It is for this reason that I take this opportunity to congratulate the AAU of today, its founders and the various generations that preceded us and paved the way we so proudly tread.   Congratulations, may the next 50 years take the AAU to greater heights!
    Narciso Matos
    Former AAU Secretary General (1995-2000) Pro-Rector of Universidade Politécnica, Maputo, Mozambique
  • Goolam Mohamedbhai
    Half a century is an important milestone in the history of any organisation. It is an opportune moment to look back at its past achievements, to reflect on its current situation and to plan its future trajectory. The Association of African Universities (AAU), as is well-known, was established in November 1967 in Rabat, Morocco, at a time when most African countries had recently achieved or were in the process of achieving independence. Although spearheaded by the Organisation of African Unity, which was promoting the ideals of Pan-Africanism, the initiative to create the AAU was really taken by a group of African academics who realised the importance of higher education to the development of emerging Africa and of the need for collaboration among the nascent African universities. The objectives of AAU, as they appeared in its first Constitution in 1969, were essentially to promote cooperation among African universities, especially in curriculum development and equivalence of degrees; to distribute information on higher education and research, particularly in Africa; to facilitate linkages between African institutions and the international academic community; to promote the wider use of African languages; and to organise conferences to enable African universities to share their experiences and challenges. These objectives are equally valid today. However, the higher education landscape in which the AAU began its operations has dramatically changed over the past fifty years. It started with a membership of 38 institutions, out of 46 that were eligible to join then; it now has nearly 370 members and it is estimated that there are more than 1,500 African higher education institutions. In the 1970s, almost all the universities were public, now the majority are private. The student population, which was perhaps barely half a million in the late 1960s, is now of the order of 15-20 million. Looking back, it is unquestionable that the AAU has played a crucial role in assisting its members in a number of vital areas. Noteworthy among these are: promoting gender equity in higher education, empowering higher education institutions in combatting HIV/AIDS, providing leadership and management training, and creating an electronic database of African theses and dissertations.  Above all, the AAU became the rallying voice of higher education in defending the sector in the 1980s and 1990s at a time when the importance of higher education for Africa’s development was being questioned. Having achieved so much in spite of many challenges, in particular a perpetual shortage of human capacity and financial resources, is truly remarkable. And here one must acknowledge the generous financial support provided to the AAU by a myriad of donors and development agencies. I would like to recall the words of wisdom of Professor Levy Makany, who was the Rector of Marien Ngouabi University, Congo and the second Secretary-General of the AAU, as they are pertinent even today. This is what he wrote in 1983: “Our successes and failures relate to an epoch. In this world of constant change, we should not be overly proud of our successes nor be overwhelmed with disappointment over our failures. We should face the future boldly, keeping our aims in view and making a firm resolution to attain them, and seeking the ways and means of attaining them.  It is an obvious truth that the Africa of tomorrow, united and prosperous, will bear the mark of what we do today. That the Africa of tomorrow will be stamped with the politics of our governments is certain, but it will also bear the indelible mark of the seal of the education and the training that the universities will have provided on the continent”. With the highly diverse and continuously expanding higher education sector in Africa, the future challenge for AAU will be how to be more inclusive, how to become financially sustainable and how to ensure that higher education in Africa, while being locally relevant in overcoming the continent’s development challenges, can equally play a meaningful role on the international front. I extend my heartiest congratulations to the AAU on this momentous occasion of its 50th anniversary. This anniversary coincides with the joyous occasion of the AAU Secretariat moving to its new and spacious premises in the vicinity of University of Ghana, Legon. I send my best wishes to one and all at the AAU. May the AAU continue to thrive and be the beacon for higher education in Africa in the years ahead.
    Goolam Mohamedbhai
    Former Secretary- General, AAU
  • Akilagpa Sawyerr
    On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Association of African Universities, it gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the debt I owe personally to the Association, my ‘home’ for 15 years, as well as the Association’s inestimable contribution to the sustenance and strengthening of the African university as a major player in the development of the continent and its people. My relationship with the AAU goes back over 30 years, to a time when, as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, I encouraged the University to take on the role of “host institution” to the Association. This involved close collaboration with and support for the late Donald Ekong, the dynamic Secretary-General of the AAU, at the time leading a revival of the Association after a period of relative stagnation. Professor Ekong involved me actively in many aspects of the work of the AAU, till 1993, when I was appointed the first Director of Research of the Association. This coincided with a drive by African universities, under the leadership of the AAU, to counter policies by some donor countries, led by the Bretton Woods institutions, which, under the Structural Adjustment Programmes then in vogue, sought to play down the priority of higher education for African development.  As part of our response, we initiated the Study Programme on Higher Education Research, which, with support from the Department for Research Cooperation (SAREC) of the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA), provided funding, training and networking for higher education research by scholars from all parts of Africa. We also took full control of the Senior University Management Workshop (SUMA), later refined into two programmes - Leadership Development Workshop (LEDEV) and Management Development Workshop (MADEV) – for the enhancement of the leadership and management of African universities. Together with later programmes such as that on Quality Assurance, these initiatives provided a vital foundation for the continent-wide campaign to insist on due priority to university education and research in Africa. The campaign became more proactive during my tenure as Secretary-General from 2003, operating on two fronts. The first aspect aimed at getting the leading donor countries and institutions, which had for decades been fixated on basic education as the key need of Africa, to acknowledge the need for the revitalization of African universities and, going further, actually to support the work of the AAU. Formal recognition of the correctness of our position came in the report of The Blair Commission, “Our Common Interest: Report of The Commission for Africa” (2005), which acknowledged “as unfortunate … the neglect of secondary and tertiary education (in Africa) …” and advocated for a “longterm programme of investment … to revitalise African universities …..” (p33). This was followed two years later by new donor support, including funding by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) – for the first time - of an AAU programme, the Mobilising Regional Capacity Initiative (MRCI). Also relevant in this connection was support from the World Bank-sponsored African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for AAU work. A second, vital front of the campaign sought to establish close relations with the African Union and, through it, African Ministers of Education in a drive to increase funding for African higher education institutions and build up their capacities as a key element in national and continental development. This culminated in the establishment in 2007 of a “Framework for Cooperation and Collaboration Between The African Union Commission and The Association of African Universities”, which facilitated close AU-AAU collaboration in higher education matters in the final years of my time at the AAU. From the side lines, I have observed with great interest the continued contribution of the AAU to African development through capacity enhancement and networking of Africa’s universities. Long may this continue.
    Akilagpa Sawyerr
    Secretary-General, Association of African Universities (2003-08)
  • Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, PhD, FGA
    Congratulations! May the next 50 years see AAU even more visibly at the forefront of continental thought and development! Here comes a time to highly commend the visionary Founders of the Association of Africa Universities (AAU) who saw the need to extend a Pan-Africanist impulse to academia. This call is still relevant, if not more urgent in our time, for two reasons woven of related strands. The first strand is the imperative of enhanced continent and global responsiveness to the dynamism of social transformation. The second, coming out of the first, is the visible geo-political developments that point constantly at urgencies of linkages, unification, collaboration, cooperation at all levels- national, regional, continental and indeed global. AAU’s achievements clearly go beyond significant feasts, not least the impressive increase in its membership, creating an effective context for deliberating and crafting ideas for African Higher Education development and growth in all its complexity, and, of course, its important implementing role in the Africa Union. My wish for AAU, apart from 50 more years of significant advancement and importance, is to continue to journey of maintaining its identity, deepening its relevance in an ever rapidly changing and arguably global space. AUU must perforce be mindful of its critical position and role in a continent that desperately requires the right calibre of human capital developed to the highest levels, as determined by the needs of our beloved continent in the first instance. AAU must constantly keep in focus the Africa We Want 2063 in the long term, and the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 in the medium term. AAU will achieve even more significant progress should the Association focus more on creating, innovating, engaging. Let AAU eventually bring to the doorsteps of daily living of the farmer, the fisherman, the intellectual, the modern-day professional, the decision maker, the indispensable role it plays on our continent. Specifically let AAU champion the quality of thinking of our youth, because they own the future, to imagine, believe, strategize and work hard to achieve the difference they wish to experience in their own lives and in those of others, by understanding, as the venerable writer Ayi Kwei Armah so clearly expresses it in Two Thousand Seasons, that “ …we are not a people of yesterday…” While remaining alive to the globalizing trends of current social dynamism, the AAU might gain even better traction by courting that most important, relevant applause that emanates from the palpable positive, transformative changes the Association has effected on the lives and paths of ordinary Africans not so privileged. Congratulations!
    Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, PhD, FGA
    Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Cape Coast; Former Member of the Governing Board, AAU; Former Minister for Education, Ghana
  • Prof. AMVAM ZOLLO Paul Henri
    The AAU at 50 has come a long way, a baby expected to be still born or to die at birth but that did not happen.  It has emerged as major actor/facilitator in the higher education landscape in Africa and has slowly but successfully helped in bringing together University and Research Institutions spanning the linguistic and cultural divides largely derived from the colonial legacy. More recently it has been very instrumental in bringing to fruition the project of the Pan African University. In addition, the AAU has done a lot in the sensitization for, and promotion of, action on major issues impacting African Universities such as, academic quality control, student massification and senior management capacity building. This has been done through studies, organisation of workshops, and broad discussions during its general conferences and executive board meetings. The significant contribution of the AAU on the foregoing issues cannot be overemphasized for, university and public decision makers in Africa are making considerable efforts to tackle them in the drive to make Africa count in the world university rankings. So, as we look forward to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the AAU, we are happy to congratulate AAU for its achievements and to wish it an even greater future on the seas of higher education.   However, there is still a lot to be done. Let us state only one in the form of a question. How can the AAU help move the bulk of African universities from implicit and passive actors to explicit active movers in the sustainable development of Africa? We believe in the capacity of the AAU to do something about this. Good luck and speed AAU.
    Prof. AMVAM ZOLLO Paul Henri
    The University of Ngaoundere, President of The Conference of Rectors of Cameroonian Universities, former Board Member of the Association of African Universities
  • Prof Edward Oben Ako
    AAU at 50! Five decades of service to Higher Education in Africa. What an achievement. What challenges. What obstacles overcome? What borders: geographical, linguistic, and educational crossed! In the next five decades. I look forward to seeing the AAU along with the African Union and various  development partners working together to place the African University where it is and where it should always be; that is at the centre of the development of the African continent through Centres of Excellence and the training of scientists in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology. Bon anniversaire
    Prof Edward Oben Ako
    University of Maroua, Cameroon. AAU Board Member
  • Kwasi Kwafo Adarkwa, Ph.D.
    On the occasion of the Association of African University’s (AAU’s) 50th Anniversary celebration, it gives me great pleasure to send you this goodwill message. As a former Member of the Governing Board and someone who is familiar with the workings of the AAU, it is impressive to see how far the organization has come from its modest beginnings in Rabat, Morocco, in 1965. It is my wish that AAU will continue to provide a platform for research, reflection, consultation, debates, cooperation and collaboration. Over the years, I have been impressed about how AAU has facilitated academic mobility of students and faculty across the continent even with meagre resources. Indeed, you have served all universities in Africa in various forms and have been our mouthpiece on countless occasions at various fora. In addition, you have created a platform for various universities in Africa to exchange information and research. My expectation is that your relevance on the tertiary education landscape in Africa will become even more important in the future. All existing and future universities on the continent will indeed benefit from the AAU and its activities. In these days when collaborations and partnerships have become the order of the day in tertiary educational institutions, AAU’s future role in Africa will be critical for the growth and development of the sector. Since the AAU’s establishment, it has done so well and, hence, on the occasion of your Golden Jubilee Anniversary I wish to congratulate the AAU and all its stakeholders. Congratulations for a job well done. Long live AAU, long live Africa.
    Kwasi Kwafo Adarkwa, Ph.D.
    KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana


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