in , ,

Building Resilient African Higher Education for Economic Development

Photo from the 43rd Global Meeting

Mike Omeri, Paschal Anosike and Klaus Schneider


The 4th Annual Global Meeting of the Forum for Innovation in African Universities (FIAU) is poised to be another highly successful gathering of best minds in academia, industry and government committed to finding solutions to post-COVID barriers to innovation in Africa’s higher education sector. Scheduled to hold on July 10th, 2024, at the National Airforce Conference Centre, Abuja, Nigeria, the Meeting, themed: “Pathways to Building Resilient African Higher Education for Economic Development,” will again attract high-level participants from Universities, Colleges of Education, Polytechnics/Monotechnics, leading figures from the private sector and policy makers across Africa, Asia, and Europe to debate ways of addressing the sector’s innovation challenges.

This year’s FIAU Meeting is timely against the backdrop of dwindling public perception globally about the relevance of higher education for individual and societal growth. Despite this, higher education broadens opportunities for individuals by providing access to a breadth of skills needed to thrive in life, work, and citizenship. There is a strong link between higher education, high income, and GDP per capita. Together, these factors increase human capital development, individual productivity, and consequently address poverty and inequality. There is a need therefore to redirect attention to the crucial role of education in general, but particularly higher education as a catalyst for achieving individual success in Africa. For instance, across Africa including Nigeria- Africa’s largest economy and most populous, graduate unemployment is spiraling despite increased public investment. A major part of the problem is that the skills graduates have attained in schools do not align with the skills employers need, and this makes graduates unemployable in the employment sector.

Clearly, at a national level, these factors call for increased public scrutiny of the role of higher education for Nigeria’s socio-economic development, especially in the wider contexts of the Students Loan Act 2024 recently signed into Law by President Bola Tinubu amidst his commitment to using education as one of the central pillars of his ‘Eight Policy Priorities’ designed to jump-start Nigeria’s socio-economic growth under his ‘Renewed Hope Agenda 2023-27’. Guided by these priorities, the Federal Ministry of Education has laid out a 13-pillar Strategic Roadmap (2024-27) that includes, among others, ICT in Education, Skills Development, Entrepreneurship Education, Infrastructure, and Financing of different levels of Education as its key Ministerial Deliverables.

Against this background, high-level speakers, panelists and exhibitors are converging at this year’s FIAU Meeting to debate how to transform Africa’s higher education sector. The main focus of their discussion is to explore ways of enabling higher education providers to embrace a number of proven innovation measures. Among others, these include exploring alternative financing and revenue-generation models (e.g., Public-Private Partnership) for higher education institutions to reduce their high dependency on public funding; forging international partnerships that expand access, enhance teaching and research quality, and foster knowledge/cultural exchange through transnational education (TNE); entrepreneurship education; upskilling, reskilling and incentivizing teaching personnel to improve their digital skills and integrate ICT into their practice and pedagogy; enhancing students practical/vocational skills and work experience through a nationally recognized apprenticeships and internships schemes; increased higher education collaboration with technology firms to digitalize teaching and learning, and design and deliver curricula that truly address labour market needs; and increase investment in innovative and applied research that solves our most pressing societal challenges identified under the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By bringing together international and regional higher education experts and multi-sector stakeholders to explore these challenges and the opportunities in terms of what can be achieved, and how, the theme of this year’s FIAU Annual Global Meeting indeed resonates strongly with national efforts across Africa, not just in Nigeria, directed at ensuring that higher education pays off through individual access to decent livelihood opportunities as prescribed under the United Nations SDGs framework.


Advancing the SDGs

Urgency of action is needed in paradigm shift across Africa towards adapting modern technologies and associated benefits including innovation, digital skills and entrepreneurship linkages as basis to engineer change for local and global impact. This urgency has become far more pressing today in Africa than ever before. Thus, prompting higher education stakeholders globally including educators, industry players and policy makers to converge in Abuja to explore what can be done through multi-stakeholder commitment and action guided by FIAU’s vision. By focusing on SDGs targets 4, 8, 9 and 17, FIAU’s mission in Africa equally is directly linked to the issues that we face as a region under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

SDG 4: Quality Education

The primary focus of the FIAU meeting is on enhancing the quality of higher education in Africa. By addressing financial constraints, improving infrastructure, integrating technology, and updating curricula, the event aligns with the goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

By bridging the employability skills gap and promoting entrepreneurship education, the meeting supports SDG 8, which aims to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Dr. Jamil Salmi, a global tertiary education expert, highlights that “higher education institutions play a pivotal role in preparing a skilled workforce that can drive economic development”.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

The focus on infrastructure and technology acquisition at the FIAU meeting aligns with SDG 9, which emphasizes building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation. Mr. Colin Sirett, Former Head of Research and Technology at Airbus UK/Europe, notes that “investing in technological infrastructure in educational institutions can lead to significant advancements in innovation and industrial growth.”

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

The collaborative nature of the FIAU meeting, which brings together international experts, policymakers, educators, and industry leaders, supports SDG 17. This goal emphasizes the importance of partnerships in achieving sustainable development. According to Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, “Global partnerships in higher education can enhance the quality of education, drive research and development, and facilitate shared knowledge and experience”.

Empowering Africa’s Higher Education Through Collaboration

One of the key advantages of the FIAU’s July gathering is the potential to promote and advance international apprenticeships and international partnership opportunities, shared knowledge, and experience, which can significantly enhance the quality and relevance of higher education in Africa. Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, a renowned expert in African higher education had consistently emphasized that:, “Collaborative efforts between African institutions and their international counterparts are crucial for fostering innovation and bridging the skills gap”.

The integration of research and development (R&D) in higher institutions—universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, and Monotechnics —can lead to groundbreaking discoveries and innovations that drive economic growth. Moreover, the meeting will highlight the importance of policy and legislative support in creating an enabling environment for higher education to thrive.

Participation for change and impact

Analysis of the barriers to innovation facing the global higher education sector shows that the conditions in many higher education institutions in Africa are more dire and require a multi-stakeholder effort to be improved in a genuinely fundamental manner. In light of this, participants at this year’s Meeting will gain access to invaluable research insights, resources and networks to support their professional growth and institutional priorities. The event promises insightful discussions by some of the leading minds in their fields, providing access into practical steps and tested methods for achieving across-the-board higher education policy priorities.

Attendees will learn about alternative financing models for higher education providers, accessing funding opportunities, integrating advanced technologies, toolkit for designing curricula that meet labour market needs, and developing confident and work-ready graduates that can go on an own their business and with attributes/skills employers need

For these reasons, the July 10th 4th Annual Global Meeting of the Forum for Innovation in African Universities must be seen as a timely ‘call to action’ from all stakeholders in African higher education space including providers, regulators, policymakers and investors. It is only by working together to accelerate innovation, through sustained multi-stakeholder collaboration, can African higher education sector emerge as a resilient driver of economic development.


About FIAU

Founded in 2021 as a fully independent non-for-profit global initiative, the Forum for Innovation in African Universities (FIAU) is the foremost University-Industry Partnership network dedicated to intellectual debate to strengthen Africa’s higher education system. It has no ties to any political ideology or interest group. It Global Annual Meetings attract and engage leading minds in academe, businesses, governments, and the third sector who gather annually in July to debate, influence, and shape higher education innovation agendas in Africa. FIAU’s relationship with key decision makers in these sectors means that it is a ‘voice of influence’ able to leverage the research insight, knowledge, and policy developed during their meetings to foster meaningful change and partnerships that help strengthen the capacity of African higher education institutions to deliver high quality outcomes and graduates that contribute to their countries’ socio-economic development. As a trusted ally for facilitating insightful discussions, knowledge exchange and networking, its priority is to help African higher education institutions to overcome their challenges by connecting them with highly reputable higher education and industry global partners that form the bedrock of its network.

To read about FIAU, please visit

For enquiries: write to [email protected]

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

     – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A Call for Recognition and Fairness: Plateau’s Heroes Deserve Their Due

Honours for Omeri, others as NIPR celebrates 60 years of professionalism in Nigeria