Africa China World Bank Partnership Forum on Higher Education, Science, and Technology was a fruitful learning journey
From July 10-15, 2017, under the overall guidance of the Africa education management, the Africa region ACE and PASET teams organized the 1st Africa China World Bank Education Partnership Forum on Higher Education, Science and Technology. About 80 delegates from 15 African countries and the 46 Centers of Excellence financed by the Bank’s ACE Projects visited Beijing and Shanghai to: (a) learn about the frontier of science and technology in agriculture, health, renewable energy, education and other sectors in China, (b) share lessons and practical approaches in teaching, learning, research, innovation and technology transfer and higher education management , and (c) form new and deepen existing partnerships between Africa and China.
The event was supported by the Chinese Ministries of Finance, Education, and Agriculture, and co-organized with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS), Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU) and Shanghai Normal University (SNU). The delegation was led by Xiaoyan, Andreas (virtually) and with active participation from Xiaonan Cao (Senior Education Specialist), Liping Xiao (Senior Education Specialist, Beijing), Huma Kidwai (Consultant), Moustapha Lo (Education Specialist, Senegal), Hyacinthe Gbaye (Senior Economist, Benin), Ekua Bentil (Education Specialist), and Yudi Yang (intern). Colleagues in both Washington and Beijing office including Celia, Tao Su, Tianxiu, and Anqi provided excellent logistical support. Communication team including Patricia, Anne and Lily helped with media outreach efforts. Below the team summarizes the highlights and key messages of the visit. All conference materials will be made available soon.
Background: The exchange took place against the background of Africa’s accelerated economic development in the last decade and China’s increased involvement in the continent including its recent signature One Belt One Road Initiative which pledges to provide US$60 billion in the next few years for major infrastructure projects in Africa. At the same time, Africa remains the priority and main beneficiary of the World Bank IDA financing and a key stakeholder in the achievement of the twin institutional goals for the WBG. The ongoing investment in Africa is boosting the demand for a skilled workforce to manage and maintain newly developed infrastructure and services. However, there remains a large gap between the demand and supply of skills required for today and tomorrow’s labor market. While significant gains have been made, access to secondary education is still less than 40% percent and to tertiary education at less than 10%. Among those enrolled in tertiary education, less than 30 percent major in science, health, ICT and engineering programs. Excluding enrollment in health programs, the proportion of students majoring in science and technology will be much lower than 30%.
China, on the other hand, has the world’s largest higher education system with over 30 million students enrolled in its 2000+ universities and colleges. The overall system and quality of higher education is also rapidly evolving and global ranking improving. In the last three decades, gross enrollment ratio in higher education jumped from 4% to almost 40%. The country’s progress over this period reflects rapid development not only in terms of student enrollment, but also in terms of quality, relevance, system and institution development, as well as local and international employability of graduates. With significant investment from the government and a high proportion of students majoring in science, technology, and engineering China is emerging as an important contributor to global R&D and technological advancement. Advances in renewable energy, railway technology, and ICT are obvious to those who visit China.
China’s development story is laying a powerful alternative path for other countries of the global South. China has a lot to offer Africa in terms of trade, finance, and development know-how. Increasingly, knowledge and experience sharing are becoming important dimensions of the China Africa partnership. Already, many Chinese institutions and private companies are side by side working with the African counterparts to develop joint programs and promote exchanges. The World Bank is uniquely positioned to play the bridging role and act as catalyst and facilitator for this important partnership. The Africa region’s Higher Education Centers of Excellence bring together African countries and universities to cultivate high end talent and skills. The Projects are designed with specific result indicator on partnership which provides a perfect mechanism and incentive for such partnership. The Africa-led and World Bank-supported Partnership for Applied Sciences, Engineering, and Technology (PASET) is also emerging as an important platform around which to organize regional higher education, science and technology, as well as TVET initiatives.