Minister Naledi Pandor

For the 10th anniversary of the Centres of African Excellence initiative helmed by the Federal German Foreign Office and the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) a conference took place in Berlin. The South African Minister for Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, spoke of the 10 specialist centres with their different research focuses as a “foundation of great benefit” for higher education in African countries.

The centres ensure the education of future leaders and researchers in society, science and the economy for the continent. “I think most significant about this initiative is the long-term perspective,” Naledi Pandor said. “All countries must have the possibility and opportunity to put their own institutional structures in place. And they need qualified citizens for this purpose: a new generation of scientists and researchers is integral to this project.”

Naledi Pandor’s words speak to the concept behind one of the longest running German-African higher education co-operations, the Centres of African Excellence. For ten years the centres have stood and continue to stand for sustainable, internationally competitive academic education and training. From 10 – 13 October 2018 the Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD celebrated the anniversary of this shared initiative with Minister Naledi Pandor as key-note speaker in Berlin.

The Centres of African Excellence are 10 university specialist centres in 8 Sub-Saharan African countries that enable future decision makers and researchers to solve international problems. Each of the centres addresses issues and challenges in its respective country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Centre for Microfinance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo seeks to support and find new solutions for the weak banking sector in the country with research and education on innovative financial models. In Namibia the Centre for Logistics works towards the government’s goal of modernising the transportation of goods and services. Each of the centres is in partnership and supported by a higher education institution in Germany.

German-African Economic Cooperation

In a panel discussion with Minister Naledi Pandor, DAAD President, Margret Wintermantel, Heidrun Tempel of the Federal Foreign Office, and two members of the German parliament, Christoph Matschie and Christopher Kannengießer (who also serves as the Chief Executive of the German-African Business Association), the potential of the Centres of African Excellence was highlighted once more. “This is about more than research,” said Christoph Matschie, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German parliament. “It is about situating our country in a global community, understanding this responsibility, and taking mutual responsibility for the challenges that face the world today. For me, there is no alternative other than these long-term sustainable co-operations.” Christoph Kannengießer is furthermore convinced that this long-term initiative will establish the best conditions for future German-African economic co-operation. This initiative, according to Christoph Kannengießer, helps to eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to German investments in African countries: the lack of qualified experts and professionals in these countries.

Prof Dr Margret Wintermandel

Minister Naledi Pandor is visibly impressed with the “immense capacities” that the Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD have built up with this initiative. “I see young academics from several African countries recognised as formidable researchers, even those who have heretofore been ignored by the global research community.” Exactly that is necessary to ensure the progress and advancement of African countries. “The DAAD and Germany have established a foundation of great benefit for African countries. We as African governments must invest in these young academics and researchers now.”

More about the Centres for African Excellence can be read here:

Original text in German by Klaus Lüber (17 October 2018)

Translated by Jaco Herbst