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Event Report

TICAD V Higher Education Seminar
“The Role of Universities in Africa’s Sustainable Development”


Contact: Yaeko Higo, UNU-ISP:

On Sunday 2 June 2013 UNU-ISP, University of Tokyo and the African Development Bank (AfDB) hosted a seminar on, ‘the Role of Universities in Africa’s Sustainable Development.’ The seminar was a side-event of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development – also known as TICAD V, which took place in Yokohama (2-5 June 2013). The seminar also formed part of the programme of the First Conference of the Education for Sustainable Development in Africa (ESDA) project, which involved 19 participants from eight leading African universities.

The seminar featured a keynote address delivered by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Zambia and the Chair of ESDA, Professor Stephen Simukanga. The Vice Chancellor’s address was preceded by a set of introductory remarks offered by Professor Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Senior Vice-Rector of UNU and Derector of UNU-ISP, and Dr. Donald Kaberuka, the President of the AfDB.

Prof. Takeuchi began the event by offering his thoughts on the post-2015 development agenda, suggesting that many of the challenges of sustainable and human capital development would need to be met by higher-education institutions.

Pro.f Kazuhiko Takeuch, Senior Vice-Rector, UNU and Director, UNU-ISP Photo: UNU-ISP

Dr. Kaberuka took to the podium to pledge his full support for the ESDA initiative. He argued that the mega trends of the African continent – population growth, urbanization, and technological advancement – would need to be exploited by a strengthened higher education sector. This, he said, was a requirement, because education remains the greatest natural resource of any country, as a source of opportunity. Upon conclusion, Dr. Kaberuka, once again restated the AfDB’s strong support for the ESDA programme.

Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President, African Development Bank Photo: UNU-ISP

The keynote address, as aforementioned, was delivered by Prof. Simukanga of the University of Zambia. In his address, the professor emphasized the importance of education for sustainable development, as a tool for buttressing economic growth, ensuring good governance, and safeguarding the environment. He stated that he strongly beliefs that the ESDA project has the capability to shape a new generation of researchers to face the challenges of Africa’s sustainable development. In addition, he argued that coordination across universities was of paramount importance, because no one institution has the answer to the sustainability puzzle. He believed that ESDA was both a vehicle and a replicable model for such coordination.

Prof. Simukanga presentation was followed by a series of remarks offered by Professor William Otoo Ellis, Vice Chancellor of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), Dr. Boukary Savadogo, Manager of the Higher Education and Science and Technology Division at the AfDB, and Professor Takashi Mino, Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science – Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI) at the University of Tokyo.

During his remarks Prof. Ellis recognised that through teaching, research and extension, African Universities could promote awareness and mobilise synergies for improving action and change with the learning of sustainable development. He also stated that he was of the belief that university should seek to develop sustainable development programme to tap into the rich cultural practices of African countries.

The remarks of Vice Chancellor Ellis were followed by those of Dr. Savadogo of the AfDB; Dr. Savadogo said that the AfDB had recognised ESDA as a programme, which was strongly aligned with the principles of the bank. He explained that the alignment was on account of the fact that ESDA encouraged a strong sense of local ownership, provided for a strong knowledge base, and sought to meet current and future needs. He indicated that the bank had included the project in its funding pipeline, and that grants for ESDA would be finalised following a short review process.

Professor Mino concluded the speeches by providing an overview of the GPSS-GLI programme offered by the University of Tokyo, at their Kashiwa Campus. As university’s work is positioned at the forefront of sustainability education, it was presented, by Prof. Mino, as a model of course design.

Following the speeches, the panelists fielded a range of questions from the participants. One question, posed by Professor Edwin Gyasi (University of Ghana) concerned the growing threat of graduate unemployment in Africa. The professor posited the notion that perhaps graduate unemployment is reflective of ‘what universities teach’ and ‘how they teach it.’ Prof. Simukanga answered by stating that knowledge transferal must not simply focus on theory, but also on practice.

Overall, the event provided the audience with a valuable insight into the important role that African universities are playing in the area of sustainable development, particularly in relation to the UNU supported project – ESDA.