Periperi U aims to close gap between Africa’s institutions of higher learning
Periperi U (Partners Enhancing Resilience to People Exposed to Risks) has become continentally and globally recognised, Patricia Zweig, Project co-ordinator of DiMP (Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Programme) at Stellenbosch University (SU), said on Monday, 11 June at the opening of the consortium’s annual consultative meeting.
DiMP, is the secretariat to the Periperi U consortium.
According to Zweig, the consortium of African universities committed to building the capacity of African countries to manage disasters, has had many achievements to date. These include among others, 50 disaster-risk short courses that have been implemented in 10 countries reaching more than 1 400 practitioners; the implementation of nine disaster risk-related academic programmes; and 100 pieces of faculty/student research produced on African disaster risks.
In 2011 the consortium – co-funded by USAID since 2006 – received $US4.9 million from this organisation over the next four years to advance risk scholarship in Africa. USAID’s Mr George Siasoco said on Monday that Periperi U has been a stellar performer and that the organisation hopes to continue this long-standing association. According to Siasoco, the focus is on longterm solutions to make communities resilient when it comes to disasters and this is where Periperi U comes in with its forward-looking approach.
Zweig said PeriperiU has decided to stick to its core 10 partners but intends expanding through mentoring and collaboration. Periperi U comprises the University of Ghana, the University of Science & Technology Houari Boumedien in Algeria, the University of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, Ardhi University in Tanzania, the Technical University of Mozambique (UDM) in Mozambique, Makerere University in Uganda, Stellenbosch University, the University of Gaston Berger in Senegal, Moi University in Kenya, and the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar. A decision was also made to start looking at internships and job placements for its graduates, embrace new technologies and increasingly publish research.
On Monday, Professor Julian Smith, Vice-Rector, Community Interaction and Personnel at SU, delivered the welcoming address and told delegates that Africa needs success stories. “We must demonstrate that we can be key to the progress of our own continent,” Prof Smith said.
Prof Smith said that strategic partnerships are critical. “Together we can do more than on our own.”
“The Periperi U meeting gives particular emphasis to strategic engagement and mobilisation of the consortium to advance risk reduction scholarship and practice in Africa and beyond, ‘hand-in hand’ with others who share the same vision,” explained Dr Ailsa Holloway, Director of DiMP and also conference chair.
“Explicit priority must be given to ‘closing the gap’ between Africa’s institutions of higher learning and contemporary disaster risk management policy and practice within countries and across the continent. The meeting represents a step towards realising this vision.”
She added that in the past, Africa was stereotyped as the hotbed of humanitarian emergencies, and heavily dependent on international assistance. “Thankfully, this is now changing, as more and more African governments are choosing to step aside from stereotypic ‘beneficiary’ relationships with the international community. This important strategic shift has implications for local human capacity development, with governments now expecting that their institutions of higher learning assume greater responsibility than in the past. The Periperi U consortium views these emerging strategic partnerships with governments, international and bilateral organisations as central to its work – whether this relates to the ‘co-production of knowledge’ through locally relevant research on risks as diverse as cholera or market fires – the reskilling of practitioners through short professional training – or the nurturing of strategic cross-disciplinary thinkers through formal academic programmes.”
The meeting held at the Wallenberg Research Centre at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), concluded on Wednesday, 13 June. It also laid the foundation for another high-level gathering that will see a number of the participants at the PeriPeri U meeting also attending the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Regional Workshop on Humanitarian Partnership that starts on Thursday, 14 June.