St. Mary’s University conducted its 21st International Conference on Private Higher Education in Africa under the theme “Sustainable Development in HE: Reality or Hype?”  at Addis Ababa Inter Luxury Hotel from May 9-11, 2023.

The Conference was opened in the presence of His Excellency Samuel Kifle (Ph.D.), State Minister of the FDRE, Prof Olusola Oyewole, Secretary General of the Association of African Universities, Prof. Bakri Saeed Osman, President of the Association of African Universities, Dr. Rita Bissonnauth, Director, of UNESCO Liaison Officer to AUC and UNECA and UNESCO representative to Ethiopia and distinguished scholars from various local and international higher education institutions and different organizations.

The founder and president of St. Mary’s University, Wondwosen Tamirat (Ph.D.), welcomed the Conference participants. He mentioned that this year’s conference was unique because it was held alongside the 25th anniversary of the University’s establishment. “Despite the ups and downs, St. Mary’ s has grown from a small language school to a full-fledged university in the last 25 years” he stated. He added that the research contribution of the University is “increasing not only through the four annual conferences it has been holding for decades but also through the continuous publications of its research journals”.

He further remarked that the Conference aimed to initiate useful debate and discussion on the roles of higher education in Africa’s sustainable future. In particular, Africa’s HEIs need to address the multi-faceted challenges facing the continent, such as poverty and enhancing employment opportunities. To this effect, “higher education providers are expected to be more agile, flexible, and responsive to the dynamic contexts of the continent”, the president underscored.

Following the President’s speech, His Excellency Samuel Kifle (Ph.D.), State Minister of the FDRE, has given a remarkable speech and officially opened the 21st international conference.

In their opening remarks, Dr. Rita Bissonnauth, UNESCO Liaison Officer to AUC and UNECA and UNESCO representative to Ethiopia, and Prof Olusola Oyewole, Secretary General of the Association of African Universities,  appreciated St. Mary’s University for taking the lead in such an important scientific event which brings various stakeholders of higher education to debate and find solutions to the challenges that the African continent must address in the 21st Century. 

During her remarks, Dr. Bissonnauth underscored that UNESCO, in response to these challenges and trends, has developed the flagship program “Campus Africa” to support African countries to strengthen tertiary education on the continent through the development of integrated, inclusive, and quality education systems and institutions.

The 21st International Conference has brought together local and international speakers, higher education institution leaders, paper presenters, researchers, policy/decision-makers, industries, and participants from the private and public sectors as well as regional and international organizations from all regions of the world.

During the event, sixteen research papers were presented by scholars from different countries on various key concepts and issues related to the enhancement of quality education in African institutions of higher learning.

Finally, the event was concluded by Ato Tedla Haile Executive Vice President of the University by giving closing remarks acknowledging all local and international organizations, higher education institutions, officials, and presidents of higher institutions, who have participated in actualizing the Conference.  He also appreciated some organizations which have been longtime partners since the first conference was launched in 2003 and took center stage in making it a reality. He also recognized paper presenters, moderators, and participants, for their active engagements throughout the two-day conference. Finally, after acknowledging SMU offices that were involved in making the event a success, declared the Conference closed.

SMU, the Association of African Universities, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Education, the African Union, the International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have jointly organized this year’s International Conference.