Promoting higher education, innovation transfer and entrepreneurship

Project description

Title: Supporting the Pan African University and establishing the Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change) (PAUWES)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Africa (supraregional); Algeria; Cameroon
Lead executing agency: Human Resources, Science & Technology Department (HRST) of the African Union Commission (AUC), Rectorate of the Pan African University
Overall term: 2011 to 2020

Graduation of the second year group at PAUWES in 2017.


The higher education sector in Africa lacks high-quality graduate and doctoral programmes offering qualifications that conform to international standards, and there is an absence of applied research. There is also room for improvement in passing on know-how. African academics play a limited role in debate in the international scientific community. Moreover, it is often difficult for graduates to enter the labour market. Universities do too little to promote networking with employers or stakeholder groups in the main business sectors. Talented graduates therefore usually pursue a career outside Africa, which means that their innovation and labour are largely lost to the African economy. However, universities could contribute to solving regional and global challenges.

The African Union Commission (AUC) responded to this problem by founding the Pan African University (PAU) in 2008, designed to be a leading teaching and research institution that contributes to Africa’s social and economic development. The PAU Rectorate is located in Yaoundé (Cameroon). The five institutes based in North, West, East, Southern and Central Africa and the Pan African Virtual e-University (PAVEU) aim to offer high-quality education.


PAU serves as a model for the quality, relevance and supraregional and international focus of higher education and research in Africa. The university promotes entrepreneurship and employment among its graduates through close networking with private and public actors and political decision-makers.

Three academics from PAU discuss development issues facing Africa.


Overall, PAU aims to contribute to the positive development of African countries by promoting entrepreneurship and employability among its graduates. In addition, the institutes are designed to contribute to applied research in key areas of development. To achieve this, the project is supporting the African Union, the PAU Rectorate and the Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change) (PAUWES) in Algeria.

It is assisting the PAU Rectorate in the institutional development of steering and management structures. This includes planning processes on strategy and finance, human resources development and other regulatory framework conditions. A PAU Entrepreneurship Hub is to be set up to promote entrepreneurship and networking activities. Moreover, the project aims to coordinate the activities by and with international donors more effectively.

In particular, the quality and relevance of the master’s degree courses in the field of energy and water at the PAUWES Institute are to be improved. The project is supporting the development of a new course of studies in the field of climate change. Partnerships and networks are to be set up and developed with other African universities. Institute structures will be strengthened and assisted in implementing their strategy plan. The project provides advice in the fields of university management and administration. In addition, partnerships have been planned with the private sector to promote joint developments and innovations, thus boosting career options and entrepreneurial activities. A needs-oriented personnel structure has already been developed and will be established as part of strategy implementation.


  • Since PAU was founded, a total of 744 young Africans from more than 30 countries have completed a degree course in the unique pan-African study environment of PAU.
  • The number of applicants has increased considerably year on year since 2014. In 2018, 20 candidates applied for a place at PAUWES.
  • A total of 154 graduates have completed their studies at the PAUWES Institute since it was founded in October 2014.
  • PAUWES is strongly committed to gender equality: in 2018, 50 per cent of the newly enrolled students were women.
  • The four master’s degree courses in the fields of energy and water meet international standards and have a strong practical focus. The courses were developed in close cooperation with African and international academics and practitioners to ensure that they are relevant.
  • The process of developing the curricula, the research agenda and the selection of students at the PAUWES Institute serve as a model for other PAU institutes.
  • A strategy plan for 2020–2024 has been adopted. Basic funding from the African Union has been increased. PAU can thus plan its finances on a long-term basis and develop a needs-oriented personnel structure.