Danna Harman just completed a two-and-a-half year tour as the
Monitor's Africa correspondent. She discussed the role of higher
education in the development of Africa with csmonitor.com's Jim
What are the top three universities in Africa and where are they
located? Why are they considered the top three? Can you compare
these universities to top-tier schools in the US and give a hint as
to why Africans want to study in the west so badly.
I would say the best universities on the continent are in South
Africa - one can't really compare the infrastructure and money
poured into the programs at, say the University of Joberg
(Witswaterand) or the University of Cape Town, to what goes on
elsewhere on the continent - and several of these South African
universities can indeed be compared to schools in the US in terms of
the level of teaching and students.
Elsewhere on the continent, I would say the two top schools might
be Makerere in Kampala, Uganda and the University of Ghana at Legon
outside Accra. Both of these universities have received enormous
financial and institutional support from outside foundations,
universities and foreign donor countries, and have many strong
departments. They have applicant pools from around the continent and
outside it and their graduates are found in top positions all over
But, even so, many Africans who are able to do so, would still
apply to go study at top-tier schools in the US, either for
undergraduate work, or more likely, for graduate work. This is
partly because the US schools (especially when compared to Makere
and the University of Ghana) have better facilities, labs, teachers,
etc., but mostly because of the exposure and entree to a larger
world that the US universities promise to afford.
Which country in Africa has the highest literacy rates? Which has
The sad thing is that many countries tie for the lowest literacy
rate on the continent. Mozambique has the absolute lowest - with
Angola, Burundi, and Ethiopia right behind it. Botswana probably has
the highest rate, with the government paying for all education,
including university level.
What role do Western corporations play in educating native
Africans to run and staff their African affiliates?
Western corporations working in Africa are often accused of
making money off the continent without putting enough back in.
Critics argue that big corporations like Chevron, for example, which
makes many millions of dollars from oil from the continent, should
use their clout (which is often greater than the clout of foreign
governments or non-governmental organizations) to influence local
governments to behave better. That's a good point.
But, at the same time, I have found many big corporations give
back to the community by helping train and educate Africans to run
their concerns. Each company has its own quota systems, and many
work to ensure that a certain percent of their top staff positions
are filled with Africans, not expats - which is of course doubly
helpful to the economies of these countries.
Would you say that Western companies, rather than Western
universities, are the best hope for the transfer of skills to lift
African nations out of poverty while building an indigenous middle