Internationalisation and Africa Talk by Tony Blair

On the 11th April 2017, Monash South Africa hosted a talk titled “Internationalisation of Africa” where they hosted Mr Tony Blair former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Professor Narend Baijnath, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Council on Higher Education and Professor Olive Shisana former CEO of Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) were part of the panel discussion amongst other dignitaries. Mr Tony Blair’s presentation highlighted challenges with regards to internationalisation of Africa. Some of the challenges noted directly concerned with internationalisation were: governance, how does Africa become connected to the world, governance reform and the associated challenges, various ideologies which exist, African problems aren’t unique even though the context might differ, and highlighted the importance of the will to learn from other countries.

He further went on to note the vital aspects needed to assist in positioning Africa internationally and improving its economy. He noted that the Structure to lead is vitally important in any government and leadership matters in enhancing the ability of the structure. He moved on to highlight the importance of Infrastructure which enables a country to be connected. He went to note that the Rule of Law is very vital too. He also highlighted ‘Security’ as absolutely vital, basic security for the ordinary citizen, the poorest.

Education was the last vital aspect he noted, Mr Tony Blair emphasized that education must be top priority for every country. Education can be driven by what other countries have learnt and succeeded in implementing. Learning these days is about being creative and equipping students with the ability to handle the world of tomorrow. He also noted that at the centre of education is technology and technology is very vital in our education and economic systems. Any country also needs a mix of private and public learning institutions and the training of teachers is absolutely vital. He noted that to point these out can be easily done but to change education is one of the hardest things to do and also if a country has one good higher education institution it is on the right path.  

In summary, he noted that an effective internationalisation strategy – few countries well governed can have greater impact and sometimes big reforms are needed to give people a sense of hope. Internationalisation is about attitude, mindset and a government which operates well. He also noted that there are basic rules we cannot ignore, that is, macroeconomic policies; rule of law; education; resilient, competent and not corrupt institutions and that reform is the hardest thing to ever implement.  Lastly, Mr Tony Blair noted that in order for countries to understand the role of higher education, they need to start by thinking, taking a step back and asking questions. Why are we here? What are we trying to do? Strategise, it’s important to have a strategic plan that allows one to put into plan long term reforms and assemble a team to implement that. Lastly keep politics intact and keep communicating the plans and goals.  During the panel discussion Prof Baijnath posed several challenging questions to Mr Blair including how the Continent can become both a beneficiary and a contributor in the global economy, what the role of higher education is in ensuring that African countries are effective international role players, and what the role of international networks is in enhancing global access to higher education in Africa.