Southern Africa, as currently defined by the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) consists of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. South Africa has a population of around 40 million, a gross domestic product of US $117,479 billion and twenty-one universities and fifteen Technikons. The four small states range in population from 850,000 (Swaziland) to nearly 2 million (Lesotho) and total less than 6 million, have gross domestic products varying from US $3,845 million (Botswana) to US $711 million (Lesotho), and only one university in each country. The first part of this chapter deals with the four small states (or, as Namibia was recently described by its Minister for Higher Education, Nahas Angula, ‘big-small’ states). As its author is currently working in Namibia, that country is dealt with in greater detail than the others, to exemplify developments and trends which are almost equally applicable in the others. The second part deals with South Africa and its much larger and more complex structures of higher education. The third briefly confronts the development dilemma posed in the title: is cooperation a possibility in distance education between countries and institutions of such disparate sizes, populations, target audiences and resources?
The combined history of these four countries is one of dependence on South Africa, though since independence in 1966, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (BLS), until change began to occur in South Africa in 1990, shared a history of resistance to apartheid in the midst of geographical and economic co-existence. Namibia’s independence in 1990 and the struggle for and movement towards it, marked the first signs of the crumbling of the apartheid regime. Educationally, the BLS countries set out to chart their own course, often in, sometimes uneasy, cooperation with each other. The University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), established in 1964 and disbanded, in line with the history of regional universities in Africa, in 1982, was the first university in the sub-region outside South Africa. The