With love from Africa

15 December 2014 | Story by Newsroom

African higher education institutions aren't as fortunate as their American counterparts when it comes to monetary endowments from alumni. But when Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price broached the topic in a lecture in Nigeria last year, local business leader Chief Olu Akinkugbe took up the challenge.

Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship African fellows: Profs Olawale Ajai of Nigeria (left) and Etienne Nsie of Gabon, who were hosted by the Centre for Comparative Law in Africa, inaugural fellows of the Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship. The fellowship is the result of an endowment made to UCT, the first by an African donor outside South Africa.

The result was a US$200 000 endowment, which has seen the launch of the Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship, an annual visiting fellowship of six to eight weeks. The fellowship supports short-term visits by two law academics from African universities to research an aspect of business law for a paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal or book.

Significantly, it is the first endowment made to UCT by a donor in Africa, outside South Africa.

In November this year, the inaugural fellows completed their stints at UCT: Professor Olawale Ajai of Nigeria, and Etienne Nsie of Gabon, who were hosted by the Centre for Comparative Law in Africa (CCLA).

Price was the first UCT vice-chancellor to visit Nigeria. While there he delivered a lecture, The Challenges of Higher Education in Africa, at the Metropolitan Club in Lagos, by invitation of Akinkugbe, who was then club president. In his lecture, Price urged African philanthropists to "come to the party" in support of higher education and research universities in particular.

Inaugural fellows

Ajai is professor of legal, social and political environments of business and head of the Department of Strategy at the Lagos Business School. Nsie is deputy dean of pedagogy at the Faculty of Law and Economics at the Omar Bongo University in Gabon. Both used the eight-week sojourn to pen research papers for publication.

Nsie's first visit to South Africa (UCT's setting is "magnifique!", he enthuses), he was struck by the common problems African institutions share. Co-operation and networks are vital, he says and in this, the CCLA is a good partner.

Although it was Ajai's seventh visit to the country, it was his first experience of Cape Town. For him, the experience provided time out to write a research paper on the interface between business and law, and build his research network.

TY Danjuma Fund

After Price's return from Lagos in 2013, and at the behest of Akinkugbe, he invited chair of the board of trustees of the TY Danjuma Foundation and chair of South Atlantic Petroleum, General TY Danjuma to visit UCT to consider a funding partnership to support UCT's Africa-focused work.

As Africa's foremost-ranked university, it was felt that UCT offers a platform for bringing together African philanthropy and African research for development.

Danjuma and a high-profile team visited the university in September last year and met with key UCT officials in the Department of Alumni and Development, the International Academic Programmes Office, and the CCLA.

From this came a US$5 million endowment, the TY Danjuma Fund for Law and Policy Development in Africa, which will underpin the CCLA's work. This fund will boost research, research dissemination, and capacity building. It also aims to address African issues and seek African solutions to the continent?s changing economic, social and political landscapes.

Lagos launches

Both the TY Danjuma Fund for Law and Policy Development in Africa and the Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship were launched at a UCT-CCLA event in Lagos in May this year, hosted by the vice-chancellor and attended by the donors and other eminent guests.

Compiled by Helen Swingler. Photo Michael Hammond.

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