By Fred Snowden, Ph.D. Chief Academic Officer, Global Cultiva
On April 5-6, 2019, Global Cultiva, a Washington, DC-based workforce and education consulting and management company, initiated the first-ever African Union Higher Education Summit on behalf of the African Union, which represents all African nations.
Led by its ambassador, the Honorable Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, it sponsors the Pan African University, a consortium of six separate universities located throughout Africa, offering a variety of graduate degrees. Higher education is a primary focus for Dr. Ouao and for Global Cultiva CEO, James Gordon.
The Summit, hosted at the Cascades Overlook Event & Conference Center in Sterling, Virginia, was attended by Ambassador Chihombori Quao and chancellors, presidents, deans, department chairs and faculty members from colleges and universities representing 21 African nations. The African delegates were joined by tertiary educators serving in similar positions throughout the US at Virginia Tech, University of Pittsburgh, Florida A& M University, Morgan State University and 11 other institutions of higher education. The program, developed through collaboration between The African Union and Global Cultiva, centered on a symposium format designed to stimulate concept and programmatic networking and promote peer relationship development. Plenary sessions, workshops, and panels featured a blend of African and US delegates. Their contributions were provocative, inspirational and well-focused. Speakers demonstrated affinity with the challenges faced by African universities, thus creating a productive dialogue. Several themes became evident throughout the Summit, which are vital to the development of higher education in Africa:
- the desire for more US university leaders and professors to visit African universities;
- the necessity of technological infrastructure and modern IT hardware for African universities;
- the desperate need for pure drinking water, sustainable energy, and agricultural development throughout Africa.
Delegates were faced again and again with the reality that access to safe drinking water remains one of the biggest challenges facing Africa and the global community. The United Nations’ sustainable development efforts estimate that more than 1.5 billion people lack safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. This problem is not restricted to developing countries of the world; it is also a rural America problem. Water is an essential basic need that must be available for human beings to survive and have a bright future. Africa has a serious water crisis, despite the continent having numerous natural water sources such as lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, springs, rainwater, aquifers, and ocean waters. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 40% of Africa’s Sub-Saharan population still lacks access to safe water. Africa’s population has grown from 800 million in 2000, to a whopping 1.4 billion today. One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals includes all humanity having access to safe drinking water.
So, it was providential that one of our plenary presenters was Victor Ibeanusi, Ph.D, Dean of the School of Environment for Florida A& M University. Dr. Ibeanusi attended elementary and secondary schools in Africa and did his undergraduate and graduate work in the US. His topic, “The Water, Energy, Food Nexus,” was a highlight of the Summit. To be succinct, Dr. Ibeanusi‘s research centers on discovering and developing bacteria that consume contaminants and toxins. How amazing; Dr. Ibeanisu, his researchers and graduate students are developing new strains of bacteria specifically engineered to remove a precise pollutant from contaminated water! The success of this research presents the possibility of reclaiming any water source, no matter how polluted or contaminated, and making it safe for drinking and cooking. In the process, the environment is renewed, and agriculture is enhanced. Dr. Ibeanusi stated, “global needs for safe drinking water, clean energy production and improved food security are motivating educators and industry leaders to discover and apply innovative and sustainable solutions to meet the need of growing populations, while protecting the integrity of natural ecosystems.”
The Water Energy Nexus Project mission statement is:
“To build an international hub at Florida A&M University housing active research and innovation for universities, research institutions, government agencies, corporations, and organizations taking the lead in resolving energy, water and food crises globally. We seek to grow renewable energy production, increase access to safe drinking water, promote sustainable farming practices, and conserve natural resources through research, partnerships, and the commercialization of new technologies.
Several African universities that attended the Summit are now networking with Florida A&M to develop complimentary and supplementary programs. The Summit was hailed as a huge success by those who participated and plans for the 2020 Summit are well underway.