GNA Correspondent Libreville, Gabon
Courtesy: AAULibreville, May 31, GNA - Hundreds of delegates have converged in the Gabonese capital, Libreville to attend the 13th General Conference of the Association of African Universities, (AAU) to deliberate on policy issues, including the achievements, challenges and future plans.
The General Conference, comprising representatives of members, associate members and observers admitted by the Governing Board, meets once every four years.
In addition to the members, this year's meeting is also being attended by education ministers, vice Chancellors, rectors, lecturers of the various universities on the continent as well as representatives of the donor community.
Ghana's delegation to the meeting which is on the theme:" Transforming African Higher Education for Graduate Employability and Socio-Economic Development," is led by Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang, Minister of Education.
Other delegates include Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Joshua Alabi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Mrs Alice Sena Lamptey, Higher Education Technical Advisor of the African Union Commission as well as a host of lecturers and rectors of the various polytechnics.
Addressing the opening session, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon re-echoed the need for universities and higher learning institutions to train graduates that would fit into the job market to reduce the increasing rates of graduate unemployment on the continent.
In a speech read on his behalf, President Ondimba recounted the growing numbers in the graduate unemployment rate on the continent, the accompanying challenges of the situation and called for pragmatic efforts to control it.
In his welcoming address, Professor Marc-Louis Ropivia, Rector of the University of Omar Bongo in Gabon charged public authorities, the private sector, essential economic stakeholders and entrepreneurs to collaborate with the authorities in the African Higher Education to "turn out from their institutions a factory of tailor-made marketable people".
Prof Ropivia said Gabon had launched a number of projects under the public/private partnership aimed at the professionalization of higher education to promote an employability scheme coherent with the strategic plan for an emerging Gabon, whose three pillars are Green Gabon, Industrial Gabon and Service Gabon.
This constitutes the foundation of the country's socio-economic development.
The AAU Secretary General; Prof Etienne Ehouan Ehile, said to ensure that products of higher education become self-reliant, "the slogan students should be no more what the university will give me but how can I contribute to the both the university, my community, my society and my country as a whole," has been adopted.
This also calls for radical innovations in the educational institutions to help catch up with the ever changing trends in the job market not only in Africa but also the international community.
In a Goodwill message delivered on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Mrs Lamptey, recalled the long-term and valuable partnership between the AAU and the body.
She expressed the need for close collaboration in the implementation of the recommendations of the 13th General Conference as well as the recommendations of ADEA™s Triennial meeting held in February 2012 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The collaboration, she said, should foster and promote the development of scientific and technological interactions, aimed at harnessing the full benefits of Africa™s natural resources and youthful population for rapid economic development, global competiveness and sustainable development.
The AAU is an international non-governmental organisation set up by universities in Africa to promote cooperation among themselves and with the international academic community.
Headquartered in Accra, Ghana since 1970, the AAU was formally inaugurated on 12 November 1967 at a conference in Rabat, Morocco, attended by representatives of 34 of the then 47 existing universities in Africa.
The vision is to maintain the AAU as the representative voice of the African higher education community, both within and outside Africa with a mission to raise the quality of higher education in Africa and strengthen its contribution to African development by fostering collaboration among its member institutions among other things.
The General Conference is the supreme authority of the Association and is responsible for determining the general policies of the Association.