African countries agree on a roadmap to strengthen higher education on the continent

States Parties to the Addis Recognition Convention for Africa came together for the first Convention Committee meeting since the treaty’s entry into force in December 2019, to exchange experiences and set out a roadmap to support its implementation over the next two years.

The meeting took place on 9 and 10 December 2021 in Lomé, Togo and online, hosted by Mr Majesté N. Ihou Wateba, Minister of Higher Education and Research of Togo.

Nearly 15 million students were enrolled in African universities in 2017, which represents less than 10% of the worldwide total of 220 million. This number has almost doubled in the last 15 years and is set to double again by 2030. Mobility is also on the rise, with close to half a million African students going abroad to study. Higher education hubs on the continent are becoming their preferred destinations.

“To accommodate these transformations, the development of inclusive, quality assured higher education systems must be a priority,” highlighted Ms Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education.

To strengthen recognition, mobility and inter-university cooperation in Africa, States Parties agreed to give particular attention to the creation and empowerment of quality assurance mechanisms, which are lacking in some countries, as well as to establish appropriate procedures and tools to facilitate recognition for refugees and internally displaces persons.

The establishment of an African network of national implementation structures will be one of the main undertakings for the Bureau in the next two years. Such networks already exist in Europe and Asia and the Pacific, facilitating the exchange of information and qualifications between countries and promoting mutual understanding and quality enhancement.

The Bureau elected – with Togo as President, Congo and Gambia as Vice Presidents and Mauritius as the Rapporteur – will conclude its term at the end of the Committee’s next ordinary session in the last quarter of 2023.

“The implementation of the Addis Recognition Convention will bring countries on the continent closer together and closer to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want”, noted Minister Wateba.

The African Union, African Association of Universities, CAMES, ECOWAS and UEMOA also gave a strong voice in support of operationalizing the convention and speeding up efforts to build a connected higher education community on the continent, also ensuring universal access and affordable tertiary education.

The Revised Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and Other Academic Qualifications in Higher Education in African States, known as the Addis Recognition Convention, was adopted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2014. Thirteen countries have ratified it to date – Burkina Faso, Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Djibouti, Holy See, Mauritania, Mauritius, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Togo and Zambia.

It is implemented in complementarity with the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education, which aims improve recognition, mobility and inter-university cooperation between regions.