Blair calls on the West to pledge $8bn to Africa

March 18, 2005

Tony Blair's Commission for Africa has delivered a multibillion-dollar bill to the industrialised nations to help revitalise Africa's universities.

This aspect of the commission report on universities, largely overlooked in media attention at the launch last week, will be high on the agenda of the G8 summit at Gleneagles in June, as it represents a significant share of the extra aid to Africa that world leaders will be asked to deliver.

The commission says the international community should pledge $500 million (£261 million) a year over ten years to enhance African universities'

ability to train engineers, scientists and other professionals needed to drive social and economic renaissance.

An extra $3 billion would be provided to develop 30 centres of excellence in science and technology, including African versions of the Indian Institutes of Technology, to act as "springboards" for developing scientific capacity.

Africa's universities contend with lack of internet access, libraries, textbooks and equipment, and shortages of lecturers and administrative systems. Unattractive conditions, brain drain and HIV/Aids deplete capacity while faculties age, according to the commission.

Akilagpa Sawyerr, secretary-general of the Association of African Universities, said: "It is clear that the universities of Africa are central to any sustainable effort to rebuild and develop the continent."

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