Annan welcomes $200m boost to African learning

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan joined three African leaders on Friday to welcome a $200-million commitment by six United States-based foundations to support universities in seven countries, calling it a concrete example of the needs being discussed by world leaders at the UN World Summit in New York.

The funding over five years includes more than $5-million to help universities obtain eight times the amount of internet bandwidth available to them two years ago, at less than a third of the price being paid now.

It builds on the $150-million already spent by a partnership involving four of the foundations in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Kenya was recently added.

Annan said the overwhelming problems facing the world’s poorest continent pose significant challenges to higher education, as talented professors and students are killed by Aids and others are drawn away from their homeland to wealthy countries. Annan was joined on the stage by the presidents of Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique.

Calling it an “outstanding display of global citizenship”, he said the initiative is a good example of how to put the ideas and recommendations on reducing poverty being discussed at the UN summit into action.

“Women and poor people still face too many obstacles in their path to higher education,” he said as the funding was announced at the Ford Foundation in New York.
He singled out the need to train teachers, increase research capacity, strengthen open universities and distance-learning programmes and to ensure that African institutions have access to the latest technology.

The Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford and MacArthur foundations are extending their involvement in the project, while the Andrew W Mellon and William and Flora Hewlett foundations are participating for the first time.

Ghana’s President John Kufuor said universities will play a key role in allowing African nations “to move purposefully into the mainstream”.—Sapa-AP

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