Prof Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor and Principal: University of Johannesburg (UJ), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Monday, 27 March 2017, establishing a joint Institute for Global African Studies between UJ and the university in Barbados. Prof Rensburg, together with UWI Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles, inked the agreement at the Cave Hill campus on Monday afternoon (Barbados time zone).
At the signing, Prof Rensburg pointed out that the population of Africa was forecast to grow to close to 2.2 billion within the next 13 years, and to 4.2 billion by 2070. “As it grows to leadership of the world in the next two generations, it’s simply unimaginable in our view for global Africa to do a cut and paste job on China, or, for that matter, industrialization going back 300 years in the instance of Europe and the US. And therefore leadership is not simply about copying. And that therefore is a key part of the work that we must undertake,” said Prof Rensburg.
Pointing out that it was the first such agreement between the UWI and an African university, Sir Hilary said the focus would be on research and policy development. “Our colleagues from the University of Johannesburg are very keen to work with us in formulating a roadmap for the global African world. There are many challenges, many big questions, and many opportunities and we believe that the university sector has a critical role to play in shaping what will be the roadmap for African peoples everywhere,” Sir Hilary said.
“There are issues of economic development, there are issues of entrepreneurship, of corporate culture, of post-colonial governance; there are issues of climate change, and issues of young people and their identities. These are all issues that are now before us as we imagine a global African world that is much more integrated, collaborating on multiple fronts and . . . it is our belief that research, and teaching and learning must be at the centre of the shift in direction,” he stressed.
Also hailing the agreement, UWI Principal Eudine Barriteau also welcomed the collaboration, saying Caribbean students stood to benefit from African knowledge systems that can guide regional development.
“I think it is so critical to expose our students to African knowledge systems, both in the contemporary and historical sense, and to shift for them an understanding that knowledge is produced in the North, so that they will have exposure to the literature, to the economic theories, to the political science theories, to African feminist thought. In other words, a whole body of African epistemology and knowledge our students will now be exposed to. And I think in terms of the implication, you can’t put a price on that,” Barriteau added.
Later on Monday, Prof Rensburg delivered a public lecture at UWI on Global Africa: Imagining a New Future.