Empowering Africa's Youth is the Key to Sustained Prosperity

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Assistant Secretary Nagy posing for a photo with program alumni.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor P. Nagy stands with State Department exchange program alumni in South Africa.

Empowering Africa's Youth is the Key to Sustained Prosperity

During International Education Week, I’m delighted to share the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs' plan to strengthen U.S.-Africa university partnerships. We are committed to supporting higher education links that expose African students, faculty, and administrators to the diversity and innovation on American campuses, while fostering increased institutional collaboration between U.S. and African universities.

The University Partnerships Initiative (UPI) is designed to strengthen collaboration between U.S. and African universities while harnessing the enormous opportunity posed by Africa’s projected doubling in population by 2050 and the “youth bulge” it will produce. Expanding existing links and promoting new partnerships at the university level will strengthen Africa’s educational institutions as instruments of national development – enhancing regional prosperity, security, and stability. Such cooperation will also promote the values of academic freedom, human rights, and good governance, which are increasingly under threat across Africa and around the world as less-open societies attempt to export their own models of development.

Our initiative focuses on four areas that are ripe for growth and enhanced collaboration between the best minds in the United States and Africa. First, we want to promote and expand U.S.-Africa faculty and student exchanges, especially dual-degree programs in which Africans can complete their studies in their home countries. The initiative will also encourage joint research, especially in agriculture, food security, and STEM, all areas critical to Africa’s future development. Recognizing the importance of deep, whole-of-institution connections, UPI will support training and skills transfer in all aspects of university administration. Finally, we need to tap American universities’ expertise in working with the private sector, with an emphasis on research, commercialization, technology transfer, and job creation.

Since the UPI was launched in September 2019, we have conducted outreach to American and African universities, exchanged ideas with African diplomats and visiting officials, and instructed our diplomatic missions to expand efforts to identify and support relevant projects. We have also consulted with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, USAID, and our interagency partners to share best practices, map current projects, and develop engagement strategies. In our outreach to U.S. institutions, we’ve recognized the unique potential for America’s land grant universities as natural partners for their African counterparts, given the need to bolster the continent’s agricultural production and ensure sustainable management of its natural resources. Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the American community college network also present promising opportunities to nurture U.S.-Africa academic collaboration.

We encourage our friends and colleagues in U.S. and African academia, civil society, and the private sector to join us in this effort, by reaching out to our diplomatic missions on the continent or to the Bureau of African Affairs’ Public Diplomacy Office (AF-PD-Cultural-DL@state.gov). Together we can turn the momentum of Africa’s youth bulge to our mutual advantage and help create the next generation of networks building peace, prosperity, and security for all nations.

About the Author: Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. serves as the Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.