During a virtual engagement session with a delegation of eight senior Nigerian foreign ministry officials, University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng noted that, now more than ever, South Africa and Nigeria have the opportunity and responsibility to enhance Africa’s influence on the world stage.
The session took place on Monday, 14 June. The delegation was part of a three-month Executive Education Customised Programme (EECP) at UCT’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB).
The EECP, which is sponsored by the Nigerian foreign ministry under the stewardship of the Consul‑General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, Malik Ahmed Abdul, aims to improve Nigeria’s international relations efforts across Africa, particularly between South Africa and Nigeria.
With a view to this, Professor Phakeng spoke about the importance of the two countries working together to push the African continent forward on the global stage.
“We at UCT and the [UCT GSB] believe deeply in the role that Africa can play in the world, especially at this critical time in history,” she said.
“As the two economic and cultural powerhouses in Africa, South Africa and Nigeria have an opportunity and a responsibility to our continent to enhance Africa’s influence on the world stage now more than ever.”
“Our two countries can work together to lay the foundation for the continent’s future.”
Despite the world facing myriad challenges, from economic and political to social and cultural injustices, Africa is primed for success. According to Phakeng, it is up to governments and institutions on the continent to ensure that African innovators can respond to the challenges faced across the continent and the globe.
“Africans are showing their potential in many different sectors around the world. Our challenge is to help their potential take root in Africa, to provide the resources and infrastructure – including education – to encourage African innovators to develop their ideas and new businesses for the benefit of Africans, as well as the rest of the world,” she remarked.
Therein, Phakeng acknowledged, is where the opportunity for collaboration lies.
“Of course, this is no easy task. You know the many challenges we have faced and have had to overcome on the continent. But our two countries can work together to lay the foundation for the continent’s future.”
An opportunity to engage and exchange
Immersive learning programmes such as the EECP are essential to ensure that society can respond to and overcome current challenges. Rayner Canning, the director of business development at the UCT GSB, noted that these types of programmes speak directly to the school’s Africa-focused internationalisation objectives.
“We are thrilled that the [UCT GSB] can play a pivotal role in developing leaders for Africa.”
“These programmes provide the UCT GSB with a platform from which to contribute to the success of individuals, organisations and countries through designing and delivering training solutions that creatively and practically respond to the complex and pressing economic and social challenges in our world today,” said Canning.
“We are thrilled that the [UCT GSB] can play a pivotal role in developing leaders for Africa as the continent grows and increases its influence on the world stage.”
In addition to enhancing the leadership abilities and business skill sets, the EECP offers an invaluable opportunity to engage and exchange ideas.
“We appreciate you taking the time to visit with us over these weeks, so that we could engage with each other on topics that are critical to Africa’s growth,” said Phakeng.
“It has provided an invaluable opportunity to deepen our understanding of each other’s cultural views and national strengths, and exchange ideas and opinions in a collegial environment.”
Strength in diversity
The vice-chancellor emphasised the need for African countries and universities to act locally but think globally.
“One of the characteristics of African identity is diversity. The world needs African creativity and the perspectives of previously marginalised people to solve the problems we are dealing with on a global level.”
This, Phakeng emphasised, is the motivation behind ensuring that UCT is not only the best university in Africa, but also the best university for Africa.
“We are proud that UCT represents Africa on a global stage and consistently ranks among the best universities in the world. We see this as a stepping stone for representing African talent, creativity, knowledge and expertise in the global arena.”
In line with its vision to ensure that African scholarship has a voice in the world, UCT welcomes hundreds of foreign students onto its campuses each year – and the returns for this commitment are multitudinous.
Just last year, the university saw two Nigerian scholars make significant strides in their fields. Professor Abimbola Windapo became the first woman professor in the field of construction management in both South Africa and Nigeria. Dr Cecilia Durojaye won the 2020 African Studies Review prize for the best doctoral dissertation for her thesis, which used music as a basis for examining African indigenous knowledge systems.
On the back of this, Phakeng emphasised the desire to continue to strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria.
“Our hope is that when you return to your daily duties, you will consider how we can continue the relationship started here; how we can strengthen the ties between the Nigerian foreign ministry and the consulate in South Africa, as well as between the higher education sectors in our respective countries.”
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