Africa must create ‘innovation universities’ if it is to achieve economic transformation, sustainable development and inclusive growth, says Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at Harvard’s John F Kennedy School of Government. Juma outlines his innovation universities proposal in a discussion paper, “Education, Research and Innovation in Africa: Forging strategic linkages for economic transformation”.
Universities should combine research, teaching, outreach and commercialisation in a coordinated way. Innovation universities, Juma writes, would need clear visions and strategic plans that focus on practical applications and include comprehensive roadmaps for moving research from the laboratory to the marketplace. The new universities would need innovative new curricula that address local needs, and would serve as innovation hubs.
Juma writes that there are two strategies for pursuing innovation universities.
The first is to strengthen research, community service and commercialisation in existing teaching universities. The second is to set up new innovation universities in line ministries, public corporations, private enterprises and development agencies
In the discussion paper, Juma points out that Africa is a youthful continent, with nearly 41% of people under 18 years of age. To address the unique challenges of this demographic structure, the African Union has adopted a 50-year Agenda 2063 to help guide the socio-economic transformation of the continent with particular reference to the youth.
One of the objectives of Agenda 2063 is to reposition the continent as a strategic player in the global economy through improved education and application of science and technology in development.