Femi Amao, 3 of january 2022

Angola, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe are all members of the African Union (AU) and it is therefore pertinent to examine how the AU and its norms could impact these member States approach to higher education development and maintaining standards. There are developments in Africa and under the auspices of the African Union (AU) that could enhance the development of education and improve its overall standard. The establishment of the AU itself provided a broad framework that is demonstrably supportive at the continental level. This is reinforced by the creation of the Department of Human Resources Science and Technology, as one of eight technical departments of the African Union Commission (AUC). The department has the mandate to advance education, science
and technology as part of its core responsibilities.

Furthermore, the African Union Commission (AUC) established a Conference of Ministers in charge of Science and Technology (AMCOST) to foster continuous dialogue and cooperation on science, technology and innovation (STI) matters. The first summit of the body in 2003 led to the introduction of the Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA), an instrument for the implementation of the decisions of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government on STI. It was endorsed for implementation by the African Heads of State in
2006. The adoption of the 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024) by the 23rd Ordinary Session of African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in 2014 is a significant landmark in that respect. The strategy feeds into the science,
technology and innovation aspect of the AU’s Agenda 2063 targeted at continental level development goals. Key aspirations in AU Agenda 2063 including aspiration 1 (. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development); aspiration 4 (A peaceful and secure Africa) and aspiration 6 (development, women, youth, and caring for children) are anchored on the development of education.

Within the context of the Agenda 2063, the AU, its member State and key stakeholders also developed and adopted the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25). The objective of the strategy is to put in place a qualitative system of education and training across Africa. This would in turn facilitate the provision of efficient human resources which reflects African core values and tailored to achieve the vision and ambitions of the AU. In 2016, a Higher Education Cluster was created within the framework to facilitate the realisation of the strategy. The Association of African Universities (AAU) is tasked with coordination and implementation of the cluster.

In addition, recognising the need to work towards the mutual recognition of academic qualifications from member States, the AU created a strategic framework for harmonisation of higher education across the continent. The strategy was endorsed by the third Conference of Ministers of Education of the AU in 2007. This strategic framework will be crucial in facilitating mobility of workers within the AU free movement strategy.

It is instructive to note that Universities play a crucial in the current AU approach in achieving its goals with respect to education. Nonetheless, broadly speaking the AU strategy also encompasses investment in education and training in the areas of science, technology, research and innovation in critical areas such as agriculture, clean energy, education and health. The STISA-2024 is designed to increase efficiency by reducing or eliminating duplication of efforts on STI at the various levels of governance i.e., national, regional and at the AU level. In addition, it has as it one of its core agenda, the improvement of STI readiness in terms of infrastructure.

One important way that the AU could aid the development of education and standard in member States including Angola, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe is through the design and implementation of a designated research infrastructure to support education development.

Research Infrastructures (RIs) are facilities, resources or services that complement other knowledge resources such as databases, archives and collections. RIs could be virtual or could be in a particulate physical location but they have a data management or information management system. RIs are important especially at the regional level to avoid duplication efforts by member States on research and also to facilitate a coordinated approach on public policy formulation and funding.

In the European Union (EU) the European Research Infrastructures Consortium (ERIC) is a legal instrument that was adopted by the EU Council in 2009 to enable the establishment and operation of European RIs. ERIC also provide RIs with a legal personality that is recognised in all EU member State. The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, created to develop scientific integration in the EU, provides advice to relevant member States ministries and funding bodies.

A commonality that STISA-2024 has with the aims of the ERIC is that it is also designed to increase efficiency by reducing or eliminating duplication of efforts on STI at the various levels of governance i.e., national, regional and at the AU level. In addition, it has as it one of its core agenda, the improvement of STI readiness in terms of infrastructure.

The task for the AU and its relevant bodies is to create a specific legal framework within AU law for RIs similar to ERIC. This would be important in employing RIs to achieve developmental and STI goals in the continent. It would be prudent to work towards a facility that has its own legal/sui generis personality open to all member States of the African Union. A designated specialised agency of the AU could be put in place for oversight purposes.

Member States of the AU including Angola, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe have a lot to benefit from the developments at the AU level with regard to development of education and enhancement of standards. The AU provides a veritable platform for cooperation between States with a strong potential for aiding States capacity. Such cooperation also makes the African educational sector more competitive at the global level.