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What Is the Partnership?

Kofi Annan at 2005 re-launch of PHEA

Kofi Annan at 2005 re-launch of PHEA

In 2000, Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, launched the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa ("the Partnership") to coordinate their support for higher education in Africa. The Partnership was a response to trends of democratization, public policy reform and the increasing participation of civil society organizations in a growing number of African countries. Foundations sought to support the priority given to education in general and especially the indispensable contribution of higher education to social and economic development.

In creating the Partnership, the foundations embarked on a unique journey that has opened new vistas. While maintaining each foundation's unique strategic focus, the four foundations agreed to work together toward accelerating the processes of comprehensive modernization and strengthening of universities in selected countries. In 2000, they pledged to invest $100 million in African higher education over five years and to devote their support to the institutional revitalization of selected universities. To ensure that Partnership interventions addressed and responded to the priorities identified by leaders of higher education in Africa, the foundations adopted a multi-layered strategy. First, they selected a few countries that accentuated trends of democratization, public policy reform, participation of civil society organizations, priority to higher education, and creative and innovative university leadership. Second, the Partnership must consult with university leaders through mediums such as workshops organized to develop country and university studies of their higher education systems.

In its first five years from 2000 through 2005, the Partnership foundations contributed more than $150 million to build core capacity and support special initiatives at universities in Africa. The most significant focus was on the development of universities' physical infrastructure and human and organizational capacity. Information technologies and connectivity to the Internet were at the core of these efforts with investments to date of over $30 million. This has included more than $7 million to establish the first regional satellite bandwidth consortium in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Partnership has grown since its inception in both the number of Partnership foundations and Partnership countries. In April 2005, the Partnership foundations increased from four to seven with the addition of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2005 and the Kresge Foundation in 2007. By the end of 2005, Kenya became the seventh Partner country and in early 2006, Egypt and Madagascar were added to the list. To date, the Partnership supports 49 universities within nine countries; 22 universities receive significant funding for systematic transformation of the university as a whole. The Partnership countries are Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

On September 16 2005, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined the Presidents of the Partnership foundations at the relaunch of the Partnership in announcing a $200 million commitment by the foundations over the next five years to further strengthen higher education in the selected African countries. The Secretary-General characterized African universities as necessary contributors to the continent's future development, governance and peace.

Providing a perspective on the journey the Partnership has taken, Ford Foundation President, Susan V. Berresford had this to say:

"Our partnership began five years ago with the recognition that a quiet revolution was taking place in Africa making universities once again a source of innovation, training and scholarship. Such effort expands our commitment to the renaissance of African higher education and to its importance in Africa's future development."

To this, Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation added:

"African universities that combine excellent, world-class education with programs of practical training are vital to progress, and it is heartening to see them emerge."

Much of the Partnership's work falls under four special initiatives that have the potential to impact higher education across the continent. These are: (1) Information and Communication Technologies, (2) Higher Education Research and Analysis, (3) Regional Networks for research and post-graduate training, and (4) Frontiers of Knowledge University Leaders' Forum. Gender is a crosscutting focus, receiving attention within the four major focal areas.

© 2017 Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. Last updated: 12 October 2010