11 May 2023 in Abidjan

West African Ministers of Higher Education commit to strengthening distance education at a high-level workshop in Abidjan.

Representatives of Ministries of Higher Education from seven West African countries, including five ministers, have agreed to establish a regional collaborative network on e-learning to accelerate the digital transformation of education in West Africa to ensure access to higher education for all citizens of the region.

This commitment is the result of a regional workshop on “Strengthening Regional Cooperation in Distance Education in West Africa” held in Abidjan on 10 and 11 May 2023. Facilitated by the AUF within the framework of the DIRECCT programme and the AU-EU D4D Hub project, this high-level workshop was attended by Mr Adama DIAWARA, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Côte d’Ivoire and his counterparts from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo, as well as representatives of the Malian and Senegalese Ministers. The event also brought together sub-regional and academic institutions, private and international partners and education specialists. It aimed to promote exchanges and cooperation between states in the field of distance education.

For the European Union, which funded this workshop through the D4D Hub UA-EU and DIRECCT projects, the development of digital education is an integral part of the challenges of access to education for all.

“This initiative is part of the common values shared by the EU and the African Union. In this context, the right to education for all citizens is part of human rights, the backbone of the European Union’s external action,” said Mr Massimo Scalorbi, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation in Côte d’Ivoire.

In the scope of the DIRECCT and AU-EU D4D hub projects, two EU-funded programmes that support people-centred digital transformation in Africa, officials from 7 UEMOA countries as well as Guinea have committed to follow the recommendations of the workshop discussions on digital development in higher education:

Recommendations from the workshop :

At country level :

— Improving accessibility and connectivity through the development of broadband networks to ensure quality Internet access and distance learning;
— Strengthen human capital in the field of e-learning (digital skills development – training and mentoring of teaching staff);
— Supporting the digital transformation of universities by setting up infrastructures (digital equipment, data centres, digital and distance learning platforms, virtual libraries, etc.);
— Ensuring the quality of distance learning offers through the appropriation of the reference frameworks (CAMES) by the teachers who design them;
— Encourage the initiative of the AUF to create a Francophone consortium of virtual and digital universities

At regional level,

— Establish a roadmap/action plan for the development of distance education, through the organisation of annual regional workshops that bring together political decision-makers, rectoral authorities (rectors of virtual universities, heads of open or distance learning centres), regional bodies (CAMES, UEMOA), operators, experts;
— Establish a global diagnosis of distance education, through documented studies allowing the mapping of the existing situation, country by country;
— Organise a framework for dialogue via the establishment of a space for exchange and sharing of experiences aimed at pooling resources, mobilising expertise, strengthening and informing decision-making;
— Co-constructing distance training offers or revising existing distance training curricula in a regional collaborative approach; either as a complement to face-to-face training (hybrid model) or by creating or supporting existing virtual universities;
— To work with technical and financial partners for an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation of academic institutions in the sub-region.

At the end of the workshop, a roadmap will be transmitted to each ministry in order to set the next steps and an action plan for their implementation.

At the end of the workshop, the regional director of the AUF, Mrs Ouidad TEBBAA, expressed her thanks to all the representatives and recalled the stakes of cooperation between states: “Our objective is to set up a framework of dialogue with the creation of a network of exchanges and sharing of experiences to reinforce and enlighten the decision-making. Ultimately, it is a question of pooling resources to be more effective.”