One would expect the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), as Africa’s newest and one of the most technologically advanced, to be part of the Pan-African University (PAU) project but that is not so. The honour has instead gone to universities in Kenya, Nigeria and Cameroon and South Africa.
In an effort to enhance Africa’s competitiveness and growth, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC) are establishing a world-class regional university system serving the entire continent in key development fields. This will be done through four components: support to science and technology programmes, which will cover the PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) and the PAU Institute for Life and earth Sciences (PAULESI); support to Governance and regional integration program, which will cover the PAU Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences (PAUGHSS); support to PAU Governance and Project Management; and, support to a space sciences programmes at a South African university.
In the first component, PAUSTI will be an East African hub hosted by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi and PAULESI will be a West African hub hosted by the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. In the second component, PAUGHSS will be a Central African hub hosted by the University of Yaound├® in Cameroon. In the third component, the PAU Governance and Project Management will support the implementation of the overall PAU governance structure and the management of the specific African Development Fund financed project. In the fourth component, South Africa will host space sciences on behalf of Southern Africa.
The country was a clear favourite because it already has the laboratories, equipment and researchers as well as extensive expertise in space sciences. AUC deemed it pointless to place the space sciences node in a country where it would be necessary to start from scratch. This is the challenge that BIUST would have faced. A scholarship programme will be established to provide financial support to all students admitted to PAU. The varsity will ensure that there is both equitable regional distribution and gender balance.
It is anticipated that in the initial stage, each site will have 100 students. Qualifications awarded by the university would be co-signed by the host institutions in the various regions and would be recognised across Africa. Both the AfDB and the AUC hope that PAU will have the potential to provide Africa with several of the high-level skills that are needed to add value to its natural resources and enhance its competitiveness and growth. “Regional Integration” as well as “Skills and Technology” are core operational priorities of AfDB’s Strategy 2013-22.