Education in Kigali

Kigali, Rwanda, coordinates a knowledge reform. Africa’s common initiatives are powerful re-shapers of its cities, which bid to host them.

Spacial Solutions, Kigali Congress Centre, 2016
A conference on tertiary education was held recently at Kigali’s Convention Complex under the theme of “Mobilising African Intellectuals towards Quality Tertiary Education”.

One of the highlights of the conference was the unveiling of the ‘Kigali Initiative’, which aims at mobilising African leaders and society to invest strongly and consistently in the upgrading of Africa’s tertiary education, with a goal to create a high-level of performance throughout Africa.

“The aim is to achieve at least 25 African universities within the top 300 universities worldwide by 2030 based on international ranking and evaluations that are relevant for Africa’s needs, and foster the leadership of Africa’s universities toward the achievement of the SDGs [UN Sustainable Development Goals] and Agenda 2063 through revised curricula, degree programmes, executive training, research, entrepreneurship and policy advising,” said Belay Begashaw, the director-general of Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa (SDGC/A). Begashaw said, under the initiative, they want to create a network of vice chancellors of African universities, mobilise African intellectuals, business leaders, and the Diaspora to support the initiative and to pull together toward its success.

Extract taken from the New Times:


This recently announced ambitious programme to redesign tertiary education throughout Africa is significantly centred on a city, Kigali, which aims to become the basis for mobilising scholarship and expertise and harmonising skills and qualification frameworks across the continent. In this respect, Kigali may be compared to the city of Bologna, which through its ancient university has been tasked with the re-expression of Europe’s universities in the service of the current need for expertise and the prudent management of learning and research resources on a coordinated, EU-wide scale. It is all too easy to overlook the number of new and highly effective continent-wide programmes launched and steered by Africa’s coordinating bodies. These often seem somewhat spectral as institutions because their headquarters rotate between cities on a regular basis instead of consolidating in a single place like Washington or Brussels. While this rotation of the centres of mobilisation for continental programmes brings a degree of inconvenience and sometimes ambiguity, it also ensures a flexibility wherein African cities may bid for the role of temporarily headquartering and championing one or another continent-wide initiative. This encourages African cities to audit themselves consistently, in terms of their strengths of mobilisation, custodianship of certain values and provision of appropriate expertise. It also ensures that cities such as Kigali see themselves in a cosmopolitan perspective that actively shapes their self-conception as hubs, gateways and other models and metaphors of relaying ideas, energies and capabilities.

While New York and Rome have become habitually associated with the headquartering of key United Nations programmes it is not clear what impact the presence of these equitable global initiatives have on those cities: whether they have raised up certain institutions to furnish such wide-ranging policy debates, accords, diplomatic and managerial initiatives or whether these cosmopolitan centres have not become strangely quarantined instead. Amongst African cities there is no habituation and little complacency towards the role of headquartering far-reaching initiatives, instead a kind of friendly bidding market has emerged in which cities both invent and propose actions for the continental common good and reshape themselves to become hosts of such programmes, the way other cities reshape themselves to host football world cups or Olympic games. The recent coalition between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa goes beyond the sheer demand to delink government borrowing from the World Bank and the IMF, and instead reflects the ways in which initiatives indigenous to different continents may easily combine their programmes to achieve global scale acceptable to themselves.

It is significant that Kigali is a city putting itself in the service of changing the condition of higher education and research across Africa. For this city redesigned itself around regional and continental transactions even before the more prestigious examples of these came its way. Kigali futuristically imagined itself as a hub, even if this meant to some extent focusing on markets, opportunities and roles originating beyond its borders. This is almost the opposite of the situation in Brussels or Geneva where the presence of nodes of global organizations remains permanently contentious. Like Europe and wherever else advances in accessing tertiary education have been made, the unintended consequence in Africa is a growing body of unemployed graduates. It is unlikely that the public sector or the suitably incentivized private sector can ever grow to the extent of providing jobs to these graduates. If human capital is not to face underemployment or migrancy it will have to re-analyse conscientiously the opportunities within existing cities and regions. Just as Kigali’s current growth is a result of carefully thinking and acting upon its positional advantages, so its future might depend upon the ways, often yet unimagined, in which its young graduates can rethink the value chains, the networks and the opportunities implicit in its everyday life.

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