University Cooperations as Platforms for Sustainable Economic Development of the Private Business Sector in Sub-Sahara Africa

By Igor Dobrosavljevic

The session has started with a short introduction of the panelists and their respective backgrounds. Each of the panelists started elaborating his/her concluding statements, which has produced a fruitful discussion after each presentation, and at the end of the panel.


Mr. Walter Deffor started, by addressing the challenges, recommendations and benefits of the three main stakeholders. The three main stakeholders were: Universities, Private Sector and Graduates.
Private sector is the one who employ the products of the university (students). Mr. Deffor stated there in Ghana there is a mismatch between what the private sector expects from the students and what the graduates know. There is a missing link.  Mr. Deffor concluded that the ministry of education should step in to “fill the missing link” and develop policies and curriculum that will fit the needs of the private sectors. On the German side, Mr. Deffor concluded that in Germany the model of practice oriented teaching works. Unfortunately the model cannot be “copied and paste” to Ghana and rest of Africa, with the expectation that it will work.

Dr. Rosemond Boohene presented second. Dr. Boohene started with brief introduction about university-industry relations in Ghana. It was stated that the university see themselves as ivory tower in Ghana. Industry argues that the university gives the students just knowledge, but not training and practical knowledge. So the companies need to devote time and money and train the graduate. At the end of the day, the universities are not doing good job.
It was concluded that the industry is ready to cooperate, but the universities are not going to the industry in Ghana. The leadership at the university has not recognized the need the university to go to the industry, and to establish cooperation. Dr. Boohene finalized that the industry visits that she did as a part of her job were very successful, and the industry representatives were very happy to see university representatives “knocking at their door”.

Prof. Dr. Bode continued with his presentation. He started by clarifying the difference between University of Applied Sciences (UoAS) and Universities in Germany, and one of them is that the professors from UoAS must have at least 5 years practical experience. Other common things for UoAS are that final thesis are written with companies, most students have to conduct internships, etc.

The main problems stated by Prof. Dr. Bode in Africa were the “research Myopia”, which means the universities are only concerned to select people with excellent research experience, and neglecting the practical experience. This leads to having professors with no industry experience, which makes the communication between these two worlds (industry and university) difficult. It is considered as a hassle, and getting outside of the comfort zone. Prof. Dr. Bode recommended the following:

  • Universities should hire practitioners
  • Universities to talk more with the industry and to “knock on their door”
  • Universities in Africa should reduce class size, so they can do practices oriented teaching
  • The culture should value the applied science. This model fits better for Africa
  • Companies need to put effort and knock also at Universities doors.

Dr. Helmut Blumbach provided his input. The university cross-border co-operation can take on board business partners and create added values for various stakeholders. As an example was given the DAAD-Programme “University-Business Partnerships” which reveals models of good practice.
Change of mindsets is necessary among various stakeholders:

  • Universities: A new concept of academic excellence: Relevance of Higher Education for the labour market must be a key issue of quality assurance;
  • Companies: Consider education and training as your responsibility; use university cross-border networks for your own business strategies
  • „Northern“ partners: Utilize African counterparts (companies, universities, well trained graduates) for joint business and development ventures instead of relying on expatriate staff

Dr. Blumbach concluded that Higher Education should not just produce well adapted employees or entrepreneurs but critical minds and change agents committed to the development of their country and society.

Mr. Simons has elaborated four case studies in Ghana, where he has showed how the university can help the industry to progress. The university and the industry have their won specializations. This synergy between the two of them can bring win-win situation for both.
Mr. Simons discussed that the university can contribute to the industries who want to go up to the value chain. The university can be a significant help in this case.  A trader in Ghana who just buys and sell do not want to go up in the value chain, he does not need the cooperation with University. Mr. Simons concluded that the entrepreneurs and companies who are willing to go up the value chain should seek partnership with the university, and the university should be willing to offer it. This will lead to mutual benefit.
Submitted by: Igor Dobrosavljevic,