Higher education in Africa has gone from favored focus to disparaged wastrel to development engine in two decades.
—Joel Samoff and Bidemi Carroll
First and foremost, this is an impressive piece of scholarship. It provides an invaluable framework for the study of the ever-evolving relationship between universities in Africa and the diverse, not to say motley, set of external institutions (academic and financial) that have worked with them from the time of independence to the present. As a comprehensive and largely descriptive account it covers rather fully the variety of issues that have emerged in the course of these relationships and pulls together much important information and many of the sources from which future scholarship can depart. It represents in itself a major and impressive piece of research and compilation and goes far to fulfilling its expressed aim: “to provide the foundation for frank debates about the merits, modes, and pitfalls of partnerships” (p. 72).
The report is analytical in the sense of identifying issues, but judicious in seeking balanced comment, and because it is careful to avoid judgments, it steers clear of provocation. For this reader, and no doubt for others who lived and worked throughout much of the period being described, it also has an inevitable biographical quality. For that reason I had expected to be taking issue with some, if not a great deal, of its content. Not so! Because of the circumspection, the balanced perspective, and the careful restraint with which issues are presented, it is hard to disagree fundamentally with much of the account.