Throughout its forty-year existence, the Paris Campus of Schiller International University has developed a strong network of alumni and friends in sub-Saharan Africa. These multiple ties have long helped give us insights into the steady development and current trends in the higher education sectors of African countries. On recent trips to Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, I met school administrators, students, parents and government officials each of whom have their own specific perspective on their countries’ universities and colleges. What I learned from these discussions were the differences in strengths and weaknesses; all of them, however, have to tackle three challenges facing their respective tertiary education sectors.
The first challenge is that of the under-capacity of a sector unable to meet the growing demand for higher education. In South Africa alone, tens of thousands of students who qualify will not be able to attend university due to a lack of available seats. Even when higher education opportunities are created, they do not always meet the second of these challenges which is filling the skills gap. African countries looking to diversify their economies need to address the disconnect between academia and business. The third challenge is updating methods of teaching to the changes in communication technology. Despite pioneering mobile communication technology in sectors such as health and banking, many African countries have not seen such dividends pay off in higher education and the potential benefits from online education. The three challenges are considerable but note, too, that these are problems resultant from growth, not decline. Establishments such as Schiller International University, who promote international higher education, can make a positive contribution by engaging counterparts and participate in educating African countries’ blooming talent.