The need for increased government support for higher education and the urgent support for transforming how higher education is financed are among the many challenges confronting the chief executive officers of student financing agencies in Africa, as they engaged in high-level talks at an international conference in Malawi. The conference ran from 24th to 26th September, 2018 under the theme: “Innovatively Financing Higher Education for the Jobs of Tomorrow”.
The international conference, organized by the Association of African Higher Education Financing Agencies [AAHEFA] took place in Lilongwe, Malawi at the Bingu wa Mutharika International Conference Centre and over 100 participants from 15 African countries, the World Bank, Ernst & Young – Kenya and USAID funded HRH-Kenya in attendance. Intel was a key sponsor. The participants include Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and the host, Malawi. Other countries were Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Malaysia & Sierra Leone.
The Conference was officially opened by the Malawi Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Hon. Bright Msaka, SC accompanied by his PS, Hon. Justin Saidi and conference host, Mr. Chris Chisoni, Executive Director, Higher Education Student Loans & Grants Board.
“This marked the inaugural international conference for participation by heads of student funding agencies and government ministries. This was also a good occasion for both industry experts and policy makers to gather at AAHEFA to discuss higher education financing issues,” said Mr. Charles Ringera, AAHEFA President and CEO of Higher Education Loan Board, Kenya.
Hon. Melly, Chairman Education, Research & Technology Committee of the Kenya National Assembly accompanied by committee members Hon. Lochakapong and Hon. Momanyi addressed the delegates on Legislative Agenda to support Higher Education Financing – How Higher Education Funding Agencies Engage Parliament. “Parliament recognizes the importance of TVET in provision of skills required for National Development. Thus to enhance access and equity, Parliament has enhanced budgetary allocations to TVET programmes such as the establishment of one Technical Vocational College (TVC) in every constituency. Additionally, to revitalize Vocational Training Centers through collaboration with the County Governments, Parliament approved a grant to establish one Vocational Training
Centre in each of the 1,450 wards in Kenya by 2022. Parliament also approved enhanced funding to Higher Education Loans Board to support TVET students,” said Hon. Melly.
Hon Opolot, MP and Chair of Education Committee, Uganda National Assembly as well as Government ministers from Botswana and Sierra Leone attended the conference.
Higher education financing in Africa has taken different shapes over the years with various dynamics influencing higher education financing including; population growth, GDP, changes in policies, financial sector reforms, technology advancement, increased demand in higher education, and change in the make-up of universities land scape from formerly only public owned universities to mushrooms of private owned universities. The structure of higher education financing need to reflect and echo the ever changing operating environment so as to keep abreast of the overwhelming need for higher education amidst constrained resources.
Higher education inevitably stands as the cornerstone through which well trained and qualified individuals can unleash their potential by discovering new technologies, innovations and implementing them for the growth of African states. Through higher education, new enterprises, establishments and effective institutions are created.
Notably, participants of the AAHEFA Conference included Government officials, Higher Education Agency representatives, academia, university administrators, higher education professionals, strategic partners and other relevant stakeholders.
Some of the presentations included ‘Are Higher Education Financing Agencies Funding the relevant programs for the jobs of tomorrow?’ by Dr. Valentino Zimbita, Malawi’s Chief Education Officer responsible for Higher Education.
Ms. Liliane Igihozo, Chief Operating Officer from the Development Bank of Rwanda Plc talked about ‘Running Higher Education Financing Agencies like Financial Institutions’ borrowing experience from Development Bank of Rwanda Plc.
Charles Oduor, E&Y Kenya and Charles Ringera Chief Executive Officer Higher Education Loans Board led discussion on ‘Creating a Blockchain for Higher Education Funding Agencies to Globalize Loan Recoveries – Stretching our Minds Digitally.’
In support of the follow-up and implementation of the 2017 Lesotho AGM, AAHEFA continues to engage African countries with higher education student funding bodies to join AAHEFA. Currently, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Mozambique, Nigeria and Liberia are being engaged.
The 2019 and 2020 AAHEFA Conferences will be held in Zambia and South Africa respectively.