Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Exporting Education


In last Saturday's Times, Celia Dugger's "$200 Million Is Pledged for Higher Education in Africa" describes several U.S. foundations's decision to donate $200 million to the cause of higher education in Africa:

The investments will significantly increase Internet access for a group of African universities, finance scholarships for hundreds of young women and build programs to train agricultural scientists and public health managers, among other things.

Funds from brand-name American foundations like Carnegie, Ford, Hewlett, MacArthur, Mellon and Rockefeller will flow to schools in individual countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda; but the real winner here may be the elusive idea of a pan-African identity, since the foundations' initiative is designed to increase international cooperation in technology while helping with decidedly individual concerns like hunger:

The new foundation money will help bring African universities into the digital age. By banding together with foundation support, the universities have been able to obtain many times the Internet bandwidth they had before at a third the rate paid by most institutions in Africa. Intelsat, the global satellite operator, is providing the bandwidth.

The money will also support training for professions essential to Africa's ability to produce more food and care for its sick. The partnership is investing in a five-year Ph.D. program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to train plant breeders. The hope is that these scientists will develop more productive, pest-resistant crop varieties that will help Africa feed its millions of hungry people.

The ongoing power of robber barons like Carnegie, Mellon and Rockefeller and industrialists like Ford and Hewlett to put their stamp on affairs continues to impress. That their foundations have been both structured and flexible enough to make 21st-century decisions about who to help and how continues to amaze.

(Thanks as always to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for the initial item.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Just noticed this somewhat old (June 29) piece that directly relates to soft power:

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David Gest

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