St. Mary’s University (SMU) held the 18thInternational Conference on Private Higher Education in Africaon 08September 2020 virtually. The conference was organized by St. Mary’s University in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education(MoSHE) of Ethiopia, Association of African Universities (AAU), African Union Commission (AUC), International Network of Higher Education in Africa (INHEA), University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN), Program for Research on Private Higher Education(PROPHE) and the Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EAA) with the theme, “Invigorating African Higher Education Institutions’ Response to COVID-19 Pandemic”.The conference deliberated on higher education institutions’ roles toward combating COVID-19.

The convener, Wondwosen Tamrat (Associate Professor), Founder and President of St. Mary’s University, made a welcomingspeech. In his welcoming remarks, the President of St. Mary’s Universityindicated that St. Mary’s University’s commitment to research remains intact despite the challenges it has beenfacing following the prevalenceof COVID-19. He extended his gratitude toits partners for their immense contributions in the organization of this annual international conference. He reiterated that St.Mary’sUniversity is pleased to be able to celebrate the 10th anniversary of partnership with the Association of African Universities and African Union Commission, and recognized the contributions of the former Secretary General of the AAU, Prof. Olugbemiro Jegede,his successor Prof Etienne Ehile, and the Research and Academic Director Prof. Jonathan Mba. Theirunreserved commitment has been instrumental in maintaining the relationship and supporting the role played by St. Mary’s at continental level, he underscored. He also thankedEthiopian Aviation Academy, UNESCO and the International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA) for their valuable contributions. Last but not least, the President acknowledged the contributions of Program for Research on Private Higher Education (PROPHE), based in the USA, which has joined SMU this year as an additional partner. Following his welcoming address, high level officials representing MoSHE, AUC, AAU and EAA, gave opening remarks.


Appreciating St. Mary’s University for “spearheading and organizing the series of conferences on Private Higher Education in Africa without interruption for the last 18 years” and its partner organizations for their enormous contributions toward making the 18th conference happen at this difficult time, H.E. Prof. Afework Kassu, State Minister, Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Ethiopia, called up on African Higher Education and Research Institutions to strengthen their collaborationsto combat COVID-19. He pledged “to continue supporting the sector in every way possible”.H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner, Human Resources, Science and Technology, African Union Commission, on her part, highlighted the continental level undertakings in response to COVID-19 and called for speedy actions “to rethink education in the post-COVID period and take the necessary measures to diversify mode of delivery.”She also demanded that, “African nations need to invest in ICT infrastructure and new technologies that could facilitate teaching/learning under all situations.” H.E. Prof. Etienne E. Ehile, Secretary General, Association of African Universities, on his part, recited the different initiativesAAU has taken since the breakout of COVID-19, among which is eLearn Africa and Wiley Education Services with the aim “to respond to the challenges that AAU member universities have reported in coping with COVID-19 disruptions.”Mr. Solomon Debebe, Managing Director, Ethiopian Aviation Academy, Ethiopian Airlines,shared the Ethiopian Airlines’ experience in response to the pandemic and the continued efforts toward the continent’s development through the Aviation Academy, which has recently been promoted to a full-fledged university.


Two keynotes andseven researchpapers that dwelt on the major themes of the conference were presented and discussed.Speakers and paper presenters were drawn from Bangladesh, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey and USA.

With a view to wrap up the conference with a consolidated takeaways,Prof. Damtew Teferra, Prof. Jonathan Mba, Prof. Daniel Levy, and Dr Solomon Benor, made reflections and lessons for post-COVID-19 higher education in Africa on critical issues for government, institutions and stakeholders.This session was moderated by DrTeshome Yizengaw from the USA.

The conference was brought to an end by the closing remarks given by H.E. Dr.Mulu Nega, State Minister, MoSHE, who underscored that given the fast and easy transmission of the virus, the preparation “for in-person classes requires thorough planning in terms of human and material resources” and confirmed that his Ministry remains committed to support the growth, development and contribution of private higher education in Africa.

Close to 130 people from different regions of the globe were in attendance.The recorded video of the deliberations is available at