Brussels, 30 September 2013/ ACP: Prominent academic and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Prof. E. Nigel Harris stressed the role of tertiary education as an engine for economic growth in developing countries, while calling for deeper collaboration across ACP regions in the process.

In an exclusive interview to launch ACP Secretariat’s One-on-One YouTube series, Prof. Harris said that although ACP countries have made some socio-economic gains, “it’s not enough”. Universities – particularly through research and knowledge sharing – are key to boosting competitiveness in local economies.

“If you don’t have a robust tertiary education system and an educated population at that level, you’re not going to be competitive globally – study after study has shown that….

"[But] how do you translate innovation [in the university] into commercial products? It isn’t that the countries in the ACP don’t have the ability – but it is sometimes our systems themselves that are not in place; the way we work together is not in place; …how we market ourselves to investors – these are all areas that we need to improve, so that we might better have a presence within the global community,” he stated.

The award-winning researcher, who also serves as Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), was in Brussels earlier this month to meet with the ACP Secretary General H.E Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni for talks on how UWI could contribute to ACP development within the ACP-EU framework. Key areas of focus include agriculture and food security, energy, information and communication technology, tourism, governance, human security and cultural industries.

ACP-EU Programmes such as Edulink can be enhanced to support these goals.

At the same time, Prof. Harris recognises the need for cooperation at the regional and inter-regional levels to make an impact:
“We are not developed countries so we have very small isolated pockets of talent and experience. If we can work together, we can get the sort of critical mass to carry us forward. [In the Caribbean], we are very attentive to forming collaborative frameworks that enable us to reach out to the world as a regional group, and I believe that if we were to form similar groupings [that] link across the ACP, we can capitalise on different and diverse strengths.”

For instance, partnerships between the University of the West Indies, universities in the South Pacific as well as in Mauritius are on-going in the context of Small Island Developing States.

Major infrastructural challenges remain such as transport and communication costs in linking the three vast regions of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific, but Prof. Harris is keen on ICT solutions:

“You don’t have to move people anymore – the ideas can flow in milliseconds. And in truth we have developed within the context of the Edulink progammes and other EU programmes, multiple partnerships across the world.

“There are wonderful possibilities available.”

– ACP Press

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