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Remarks by H.E. Mr. Harry DE BACKER Minister Counsellor Delegation of the European Union to the African Union on the Occasion of the Launch of the Pan-African University

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, December 14, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Remarks by H.E. Mr. Harry DE BACKER Minister Counsellor Delegation of the European Union to the African Union on the Occasion of the Launch of the Pan-African University

Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Your Excellency AUC Chairperson Jean Ping

Your Excellency AUC Commissioner Jean-Pierre Ezin

Your Excellencies the African Education Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

• Across Europe, millions of students are pursuing their studies in countries which are not their own, often in languages which are not their own. In so doing they are enjoying access to the very best educational facilities in Europe in their fields of study whilst developing their cultural and linguistic experiences. We are convinced that this will in turn make them more employable in the job market and better able to contribute to the future economic growth of Europe.

• Today we are here to discuss how higher education can strengthen Africa's competitiveness. We all know that skilled and creative people are crucial to the success of any business organization, or economy. We also know that more and more jobs will require high-level skills.

• Without a step-change in the way we educate our people, our economies will not be competitive in a 21st century where flexible and transferable skills are already in growing demand.

• In fact, the economic crisis has made existing weaknesses more visible. It is clear that one of the challenges that we face is the mismatch between the skills demanded by the labour market, and what the current training and educational programmes can supply.

• But this isn't all : the 21st century also desperately needs more entrepreneurs, people who can create new companies. One needs to raise a generation with the vision and the curiosity to think in new ways, and with the ability to innovate.

• So we need to rethink our approach to education and I am convinced that the concept behind the pan-African University is one important step in that direction.

• I also believe that greater cooperation between educational institutions and the private and public sector employers is absolutely necessary; While the transmission of knowledge based on research must remain at the heart of higher education, both businesses and universities have much to gain from closer cooperation. Above all, it is the students who will benefit by obtaining the skills which best match the needs of the job market.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me say a few words on the EU-Africa cooperation in Education.

• Over the past year the European Commission has undertaken significant work in the Field of education with the African Union, putting it higher on the EU-Africa cooperation agenda.

• This is confirmed by the EC Policy Communication of 25 May, where we stress the importance of education in pursuing sustainable economic growth and in building healthy democracies. Indeed, we believe that education and democracy build upon one another;

• It is in this context that we are proposing in addition to the funds already available, an additional budget of one 200 Million euro to reinforce the participation of North African countries in our education programmes Tempus, Erasmus Mundus, eTwinning and Youth in Action.

• Already, African students and institutions are performing well under Erasmus Mundus scholarships and programmes. And the Tempus programme has made an important contribution to reform and development of higher education systems and institutions in North Africa. We want to ensure that this continues.

• In addition, we are encouraged by the response of African universities to the 40 M euro Intra-ACP student mobility programme, better known as Nyerere-2, which was launched a few months ago. This programme, together with the Harmonization and Tuning pilot project, are important instruments to support reforms currently underway in Africa for building high-quality higher education.

• Linking education and skills development to labour market needs, promoting entrepreneurship in education to increase employment opportunities and interactions with research and innovation are all crucial elements of our support and policy dialogue.

• We encourage African scholars, researchers, students and educational and research institutions to use all the opportunities offered by our programmes.

So to conclude, the European Union and its Member States very much support this launch today of the Pan-African University as a further step in widening educational opportunities for African students thereby ensuring that the continents future academics, businessmen and political leaders acquire the necessary skills to meet the many challenges facing Africa in the 21st century.

I very much hope that in a future speech I could end as I began by saying that "Across Africa millions of students are pursuing their studies in countries which are not their own often in languages which are not their own.' I wish the Pan-African University every success in contributing to this ideal.

Thank You.