The University of Agder (UiA) has over 70 collaboration projects with African countries. There will be more focus on the continent from now on.
"Many students and staff at UiA engage in projects in Africa. We will continue with that, and our ambition is to gather different efforts at UiA and strengthen cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We aim at increasing the number of projects targeting African countries and further developing their content”, says Frank Reichert, rector at UiA.
Øystein Djupedal, senior advisor at UiA’s Management team, leads the working group to strengthen further the African initiative. The working group consists of members from all faculties, and has generated a comprehensive overview of all partnership projects in Africa. These will be made available on a new website launched on 8 May 2017.
"Both Norwegian and foreign colleagues and students can get information through this extensive database on existing collaboration projects," says Reichert.
The working group will deliver an action plan to Frank Reichert and the rest of the Rectorate in October 2017.
The website shows UiA’s particularly strong cooperation with Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. Users will be also able to find an interactive overview map, where they can navigate from country to country and from project to project.
“The database currently includes more than 70 partnerships and we have the ambition to develop more. The mapping process has been a breakthrough and we hope that the website will be a good tool that can also inspire other universities with similar collaboration,” says Øystein Djupedal.
The working group is now preparing an action plan to be handed over to the Rectorate in October. Concrete measures will be proposed to further consolidate UiA’s project portfolio on the African continent.
"We will propose to concentrate efforts around about five countries and five to ten universities we already cooperate with and which have national priorities set by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” says Djupedal.
UiA's projects in Africa have been based on cooperation, not assistance. This will continue.
“The projects will be based on mutual understanding and usefulness. Many African countries do not have the same opportunities as we have in terms of infrastructure, technology aids and financing. We can contribute, while we can create opportunities to make a difference - for example, in terms of renewable energy. Such cooperation will benefit all parties”, underscores Frank Reichert.
The work is in line with UiA's strategic focus areas Global Mindset and Community Engagement and Innovation. One of the goals for UiA is to contribute actively in ensuring innovation in the social, cultural and business sectors. Øystein Djupedal looks forward to handing over the action plan in a few months.
"Both Norwegian and African students get great benefits from being in contact with international companies. We now have a unique opportunity to lift the cooperation with Africa further, if the framework is prioritized by the rector and the board, and funds are made available”, argues Djupedal.