The new normal has been revealing. An oscillation between threats and opportunities. On one
end, we are exposed and the revelation, our great need for physical connectedness. The
restrictions posed by the COVID-19 have limited our ability to connect.
Conversely, the new normal has also revealed how much we need partnerships to thrive, with
technology playing an important part. For African universities, it becomes vital to
collaborate. Our presented challenges, often similar, necessitate the need for working
together. The cross-pollination of ideas, especially within African universities, is needed.
The situation on the African continent is still ominous. A recent World Bank report directs
focus in improving continental dynamic capabilities. For such to happen, three focus areas
should be prioritized.
First, African universities need to develop a skilled human resource cohort of world-class
standards. Such a cohort needs to be sufficiently trained and also entrenched in solving local
challenges. Other aspects of focus should pay attention to human resource practices, such as
talent management strategies and remuneration. This encourages the challenge of the brain
drain where African labour is mainly benefitting Western countries. Let’s improve the
material conditions of the African workforce. There is no other substitute for quality.
A second priority is an investment in technologies of the future. Something as basic as an
investment in affordable high-speed internet connectivity can assist in the developmental
agenda. There is a noted observation that many of our socio-economic imperatives require
this development orientation in mind. For instance, we note the rise in aspects of informality
on the African continent. There is a need for such technologies to arrive in such sectors where
our people ply their trade.
Third, there is need for the development of Afrocentric ideas generated through African
collaborations. This calls for investment into such Africa-Africa collaborations. The
development of Africa cannot come from ideas from outside alone but also from within.
The role of the African university becomes critical also in all this.
Many African countries have a growing youth population. There is a need for continued
investment in this young population. Many of these young people still see the university as a
helpful outlet to get the skills for the workforce. The African university becomes an essential
citadel with the potential to a spill-over effect to other sectors of society.
African universities should also focus in addressing infrastructure challenges. A Deloitte
Report bemoans the challenge of infrastructure as a significant obstacle to Africa achieving
total economic growth. To enhance competitiveness, there is a need to invest in infrastructure
that encourages connectivity in African universities.
The critical role of partnerships becomes necessary now more than ever. This is the type of
collaboration that is mutually beneficial by maximizing economies of scale and fostering
Our visit to Zambia attests to the importance of such collaboration. Funded by the National
Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa, we visit Zambia for the
second time. The funding allows for Africa-Africa collaboration for research, joint teaching
collaborations, new curriculum development, short course attendance, or participation in
research networks. Training workshops in the past have been conducted at the University of
Zambia. The current visit seeks to empower students and staff at Mulungushi University.
Such research partnerships between African universities attest to the continued history of
working together on the African continent. This was also the case under the banner of the
Front Line States. The collective voice and action of leaders such as Kenneth Kaunda,
Robert Mugabe, and Julius Nyerere were vital in calling for the release of Nelson Mandela
from prison under the apartheid regime. We can only learn from such efforts, the power of
partnerships in enacting change.
Willie Chinyamurindi is the Head of Department for Business Management and Professor at
the University of Fort Hare. Munacinga Simatele is the Acting Dean of Research and
Professor of Economics at the University of Fort Hare. Newline Marongwe is Educational
Psychologist and HIV/AIDS Counsellor based at Walter Sisulu University. The three are
based in South Africa and funded under the National Institute of Humanities and Social
Sciences under the African Pathways Funding Instrument.
Willie Tafadzwa Chinyamurindi
Head of Department