The UWI continues to reinvent itself for the 21st century by expanding its global footprint in new and unprecedented ways. Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles who promised at the inception of his term to shape the University’s future around its sound international reputation has taken another bold leadership step.
On Monday, 27 March 2017, he hosted the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Professor Ihron Rensburg, and his team. The outcome was the signing of an agreement to establish the UWI/Johannesburg Institute for Global African Affairs. This UWI Centre in South Africa will follow upon the establishment of the SUNY UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development, and the UWI China Institute of Information Technology (UWICIIT) in Suzhou, China.
Speaking at the official signing ceremony, Sir Hilary noted that the globalisation of The UWI is consistent with the needs of the region, particularly the creation of a globally educated, connected, and empowered youth. The Caribbean, he said, has a critical role to play and would also benefit from the phenomenal global rise of Africa in the next 10 to 20 years. Attracting African investments and general interest in our region has to be a top priority, he added, given that billions of dollars and asset values are leaving Africa annually for locations in Europe and North America, bypassing the Caribbean that fought for African liberation and nation building.
Vice-Chancellor Rensburg, the highly acclaimed, globally respected, innovative academic leader, noted that as Africa’s economy and population grow to unprecedented historic levels they must functionally integrate the Caribbean community that has been Africa’s longest and most loyal allies.
South Africa and Nigeria, Africa’s two largest economies, he noted, can and must invest in the Caribbean. This business connection will generate the growth which is critically needed on all sides. But as Africa grapples with post-colonial challenges, such as science and technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, environmental exposure from mining and climate change, tourism, urbanisation, civil rights and social security, fiscal gap management, terrorism, food security, and popular culture, its natural allies should be the Caribbean who are also walking these difficult roads.
The UWI–Johannesburg Institute for Global African Affairs is intended to be the development bridge between the Caribbean and South Africa, and Africa in general. It will be a jointly owned and managed institute and will operate within the two universities. It will conduct joint research, teaching, and public advocacy around the many elements of sustainable economic and social development.
The Institute proposes to deliver in the next academic year, a joint master’s degree in Global African Affairs that focuses on trade, diplomacy, economic development, cultural industries, and other aspects of 21st century Africa and Caribbean Diasporas.