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New Virtual Network Links African and U.S. Universities [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

October 27, 2008

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced last week plans for a virtual network to enable African universities to collaborate with American institutions and share ideas on partnership projects in education, economic development, food security, and health. The Africa Education Commons, as the network is called, was announced at a meeting of the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative held in October in Rwanda to promote the formation of strategic partnerships between African and American institutions.

The USAID announced earlier this year that it would provide $1-million for 20 grants to allow African and American universities to plan long-term partnerships, in areas such as health and science, that would speed development on the African continent.

Sarah E. Moten, chief of the education division of the USAID’s Africa bureau, said the network would allow institutions, many of which are isolated from one another, to share teaching techniques and successful approaches to partnerships. “No such thing has been done before, where people from the entire region develop a relationship where they will be planning and sharing from a regional standpoint,” she said.

African universities potentially have much to gain from partnerships with American institutions, particularly in building the capacities of their graduate programs, training and mentorship opportunities for senior faculty members, introducing interactive teaching methods, and bringing more women into academic ranks, said Silas Lwakabamba, rector of the National University of Rwanda, who is also on the advisory board of the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative.

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