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South Africa leads university rankings

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

University of Cape Town, in South Africa

Eight of the top 10 institutions of higher education in sub-Saharan Africa are located in a single country, according to new rankings.

South Africa wins the university sweepstakes according to new rankings: Eight of the top 10 institutions of higher education in sub-Saharan Africa are in that country while the other two are located in Kenya and Tanzania.

According to the 2016 University Web Rankings & Reviews by 4International Colleges & Universities, the University of Cape Town is the top university in Africa.

The 187-year-old public institution in the suburbs of Cape Town has an enrollment of more than 20,000 students.

Second in the rankings is the University of South Africa, in Pretoria with an enrollment of more than 45,000 students, followed by the Universiteit Stellenbosch (enrollment 25,000) and the University of Pretoria (enrollment 60,000), with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (enrollment 25,000) rounding out the top five.

The other South African universities on the list are: Rhodes University in Grahamstown with an enrollment of 7,000-8,000, the University of the Western Cape in Bellville with more than 15,000 students, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban with more than 40,000 students.

In Tanzania, the University of Dar es Salaam in that city also made the top 10 list. It has an enrollment of more than 15,000 students.

The University of Nairobi in Kenya rounded out the top rankings for the southern continent. With more than 45,000 students, the university also has branch campuses in Kikuyu, Parklands, Lower Kabete, Upper Kabete, Chiromo and Kismu.

Ratings favor graduate, research programs

Experts said South African Universities tend to do well on university rankings because the ratings tend to favor institutions that have significant numbers of doctoral students and faculty with doctoral degrees, and are recognized research centers.

University of Cape Town, for example, has made a point of becoming a “research-led flagship” university, according to Nico Cloete, director of the Centre for Higher Education Trust and coordinator of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa.

Students in a classroom at University of Cape Town

Students in a classroom at University of Cape Town

In a 2014 study, Cloete found that nearly a third of all students at the University of Cape Town in 2011 were postgraduate students and nearly two-thirds of the faculty had doctoral degrees.

In contrast, he found that institutions of higher education outside South Africa typically had low enrollments of graduate students and operated professional master’s degree programs rather than developing potential research leaders.

South African universities torn by protests

While South Africa’s universities receive high academic ratings, they have come under fire in recent years with students and faculty complaining about high fees and predominantly white faculties.

Violence erupted at several South African universities, including the University of Cape Town, earlier this year as students protested housing conditions and complained that white international students were given preference in accommodations. Several Cape Town students were arrested after protesters torched vehicles, burned artwork, invaded residences and petrol-bombed a vice chancellor’s office.

Leaders seek to increase participation

The rankings come against the backdrop of efforts to improve participation in higher education in Africa.

Higher education leaders have set a goal of 50% enrollment by 2063, the same level that is projected globally.

Currently, only 8% of sub-Saharan Africans of college age are enrolled, compared to 26% in the Middle East and 32% globally. In the developed world, the rate is more than 75%, according to 2012 data.

In setting the 50% target last year, the African Higher Education Summit called for a large increase in African investment in university education, greater research spending and stronger links to scholars in the African diaspora.

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s most debt-laden nations

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured


Sub-Saharan Africa’s most indebted countries are revealed in the latest figures from the World Bank and the IMF.

Recent figures from the World Bank and the IMF provide a clear picture of which of Africa’s sub-Saharan nations have the highest levels of debt. The figures illustrate national debt as a percentage of the nation’s GDP, as opposed to ranking nations on absolute debt. This is an important distinction, as it accounts for how significant the effect of a government’s debt could be to its economic future.

For example, South Africa has the largest overall debt in absolute terms – with a huge 158 billion euros worth – but it also has a much larger GDP then most African states. This larger economic base ensures that South Africa is not even in the top ten of the most indebted nations.

From the highest debt to the lowest

The ten most debt laden countries of sub-Saharan Africa (with the percentage of their GDP that debt represents in parentheses) are Eritrea (126%), Cape Verde (122%), Gambia (97%), São Tomé and Príncipe (92%), Congo (79%), Ghana (74%), Malawi (73%), Angola (70% ) and Seychelles (65%).

In contrast, the ten nations with the lowest percentage of their GDP represented as debt were Nigeria (13%), Botswana (16%), DR Congo and Swaziland (20%), Equatorial Guinea (25 %) and the Comoros (29.2%), Namibia (31%), The Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso (33%) and finally Mali (35%).

Across the entire sub-Saharan region this averaged out at a 52% debt to GDP ratio, which actually compares favorably with Europe, in which the average is 92%.

What is clearly of significance is the degree to which an economy is likely to grow, and thus manage its debt without it becoming crippling. Moreover, what is sustainable for a developing nation is markedly less than it is for a developed market. While 40% is generally seen as manageable for emerging economies it can be significantly higher for large, more established markets.

The good news for Africa as a whole is that average GDP growth is second only to South Asia. A more cautionary view would note that borrowing is also growing quickly, and unforeseen humanitarian disasters, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak, can have huge economic fallout in developing markets.

Changes to old debt and shaping the future

The single largest impact on the once debilitating debt levels in Africa occurred with the 1996 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC). The internationally developed program was managed by the World Bank, in conjunction with the IMF and the African Development Bank. The initiative was further bolstered by 2005’s Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, which was managed by the same trio, and led to 35 sub-Saharan nations eradicating over $100 billion of external debt.

While this allowed many nations to invest in social infrastructure, for others it simply meant writing off overdue debt, but did not create new streams of revenue for investment. Whether a nation wrote off old debt, or managed to put new resources into development, all of the affected nations profited in one key area.

According to Marcelo Guigale, a World Bank director, this universal benefit was that governments learnt “discipline” in spending, and had to have clear plans on reducing poverty. As such, Guigale stated African governments had “more money to spend and new offers to borrow—this time from private bankers.”

The concern in some quarters is that borrowing in some nations is outpacing growth, and this could lead to a return to pre HIPC levels of financial burden. An article in The Economist warned that, although Africa’s economies were growing quickly, “growing fastest of all is debt—personal, corporate and government.”

However, a trio of The World Bank’s own economists feel confident that “overall, governments have been borrowing responsibly”, and the IMF have ensured that guidance is being provided to help nations manage their debt constructively.

It is important for nations to be prudent with their borrowing, but even with some worries over rising debt, most experts feel genuine progress has been made.

Todd Moss, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Global Development summarized the nature of Africa’s debt situation, saying, “Despite misgivings about certain countries, Africa is still in a fundamentally different place than it was 20 or 30 years ago when old debts were taken on.”

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IMF sees sub-Saharan Africa growth near two-decade low in 2016

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will likely slow this year to its weakest in nearly two decades, hurt by a slump in commodity prices, the Ebola virus outbreak and drought, the IMF said on Tuesday.

In its African Economic Outlook, the Fund said the region would likely grow 3 percent this year – the lowest rate since 1999 – after expanding by 3.4 percent in 2015.

Growth was seen recovering to 4 percent next year, helped by a slight recovery in commodity prices, and the Fund said it was still optimistic about the region’s prospects in the longer term.

“However, to realise this potential, a substantial policy reset is critical in many cases,” the Fund said.

Affected countries needed to contain fiscal deficits as the reduction in revenue from the commodities sector was expected to persist, it added.

Major oil exporters Angola and Nigeria were hardest hit by the slump in commodities prices, as were Ghana, South Africa and Zambia, the report said.

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were only gradually recovering from the Ebola epidemic, while several southern and eastern African countries including Ethiopia, Malawi and Zimbabwe were suffering from a severe drought, the IMF added.

On the upside, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Senegal would see growth of more than 5 percent, mostly “supported by ongoing infrastructure investment efforts and strong private consumption,” the report said.

“The decline in oil prices has also helped these countries, though the windfall has tended to be smaller than expected, as exposure to the decline in other commodity prices and currency depreciations have partly offset the gains in many of them,” it added.


(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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