Forum for Innovation in African Universities

white Paper: Accelerating Innovation in African Universities

Summary Institutional measures that provide livelihood opportunities often produce ambiguous and marginal results for individuals. But not in the case of opportunities that universities can provide. Universities can play a central role as centres of knowledge generation and employment creation and ultimately spur economic growth in any society. However, African universities have yet to live up to this vital role. This is because, among others, they are not yet active players in their countries’ innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. With a burgeoning youth population amid rising youth and graduate unemployment in Africa, coupled with weak technological firepower to meet the needs of a growing number of young people wishing to obtain a university qualification in the region, the current situation poses a particular danger to the societal role of African universities as ‘Centers of Excellence’ and the region’s competitiveness as the next global economic frontier behind Asia.

To strengthen the capacity of African universities to become key players in their countries’ entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, thereby address this risk, we propose a four-track solution, namely: 1) sustainable partnerships; 2) embedding entrepreneurship across curricula; 3) embracing entrepreneurial university concept, and 4) adopting institutional models that support students’ start-up creation. Anchored in three self-reinforcing idea of ‘co-creation’, ‘coordination’, and ‘information exchange’, our proposal is derived from key takeaways of the inaugural Global Annual Meeting of the Forum for Innovation in African Universities (FIAU). Its calls on higher education stakeholders, particularly African universities to take a more proactive and urgent steps towards collaborating with other higher education stakeholders within and outside the sector and their countries including businesses, governments, and research institutes.

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