Education for sustainable development in West Africa

“Public-private partnerships are an important opportunity to strengthen food security and accelerate economic growth in Ghana and the West African region as a whole. “


Following Kofi Anan’s excellent plenary at NAFSA on the power of education to shape lives, we bring you news of an innovative project in Ghana and an invitation to university colleagues to help shape a unique social entrepreneurship project.

The eight Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) outlined by the United Nations include lofty targets ranging from the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger to the reduction of child mortality by 2015.   All are underpinned  by the eighth MDG goal – a commitment to global partnership.

We believe that universities should form an integral part of those partnerships and can play a vital role in addressing these challenges.

However, the issue facing many academic institutions is how to provide more of their students and faculty with meaningful and real life scenarios which not only transform the communities in which they work but enrich their personal education and development.

INTO and 8 degrees north – an ethical “shared value” business established to work with farmers in West Africa have launched an exciting new initiative to allow universities and their students make a real contribution to sustainable development in the region.

We invite partner universities and others with an interest in the potential of higher education to transform lives to get in touch with us during he NAFSA event taking place this week.  If you are fortunate enough to be in Saint Louis, pop by our booth 213 to find out more.

This unique initiative provides an opportunity for universities and their students to make a material difference in one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions.  We believe it sows the seeds for new styles of education partnership which can help lift communities out of poverty, contribute to economic and social development and establish a model which has the potential to expand right across the developing world.

Jonathan Smales, Executive Chairman of 8 Degrees North outlines the opportunity

West Africa has extraordinary potential for social and economic development. Its mineral and other resources are well understood but it also has incredible ecological wealth, vast untapped potential for solar and hydro energy and bio gas and a burgeoning population; it is blessed with extraordinary human capital.

There is both a profound need and in many places the real possibility that, as Africa develops, it avoids some of the mistakes made in Europe, the US, and China and jumps instead to an inherently sustainable pattern of economic development. This can happen in the energy sector, in transport, farming, even in education itself. Perhaps it can happen in all sectors of the economy?

All of this adds up of course to be a very exciting and possibly unique opportunity for education at all levels. In fact education itself must be re-conceived so that it is fit for this exciting but demanding purpose. It should both anticipate and respond in myriad bespoke ways to the needs of people and communities in pursuit of the essential goals of the sustainable development of Africa.

Education needs to develop fast, be agile, attractive to private investment (so that it is not entirely dependent upon governments or philanthropy), and hugely creative in the way it is delivered.  Partnerships between different stakeholders in the educational process will be key to its success.

At INTO and 8degreesnorth we believe that international partnerships can play a vital role in inspiring and enabling the transition to better, more effective education for all in Africa and we are looking for outstanding people and institutions who want to join with us in meeting this challenge.

Our work with farmers and in local communities has the potential to provide a platform and economic stimulus for transformative rural sustainable development, helping to stem the flow of energetic and talented young people to the cities, provide a more balanced economy and improving the quality of life for all.

8degreesnorth is developing an exclusive, strategic relationship with Into University Partnerships (INTO) to connect its work with INTO’s university partners around the world.  We believe that the combination of:

a) effective, efficient and sustainable palm oil production and the economic activity this will induce, with

b) world-class research and education initiatives, will be a distinctive and compelling one, bringing widespread benefits to host communities.

Education should and can be at the heart of rural sustainable development – a powerful generator of new  values, attitudes and skills appropriate to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

We have identified a umber of areas  of activity with which universities can engage outlined below:

Opportunities for research, learning and experiential education

8degreees north will provide the governance and organizational agency at the local level to support a range of education and research programmes; these can grow over time and evolve their own rationale, relationships and momentum. The aim is for this to become a focal point in Africa for education contributing to sustainable development.

The 8degreesnorth Foundation will, in time, also support the most exciting and effective research and educational initiatives that benefit local people and which have the widest resonance through the palm growing areas. 

The opportunities divide into 4 main categories:

  • Applied research
  • Field studies and practical projects
  • Experiential learning and personal development for academics and students
  • Primary, secondary and tertiary education for people in the host communities

Applied research, Field Studies and Practical Projects 

There is a plethora of opportunities for valuable applied research, field studies and practical projects. Some of these relate directly to evaluating and then improving the social, economic and environmental impact of 8dn’s work in palm with its smallholder partners; others relate to the wider issues in enhancing the quality of life, sustainably, for people in local communities.

At the current time we envisage the research priorities being in regard to the following principal fields of study:

Sustainable agronomy and palm productivity: how to optimize the yield of high quality palm fruit, consistent with climatic constraints (and allowing for changes in climate), ecological richness and biodiversity and the production of other cash and subsistence crops.

Economic impacts: what are the economic impacts of 8dn’s and other activities in the local and regional economies?

Energy, water and waste:  which actions to ensure a reliable, clean, sustainable

and affordable supply of energy and water to where they are needed and how to create a circular local economy in waste?

Governance, leadership and management: how to improve governance, leadership and management at different levels throughout the communities, in culturally appropriate ways?

Social impacts: how to measure and evaluate the social impacts of 8dn and other programmes? Winners (and losers?), risks, new opportunities, appropriate aims, objectives and methodologies for social progress and assessing different strategies to agree and achieve these.

Experiential learning, study abroad  and personal development for academics and students

We are preparing a programme that aims to provide excellent opportunities for academics and students to be part of the creative transition from rural poverty to a more robust and productive economy in Ghana. 

Via its strategic relationships with universities in the US, UK and China, IUP will provide channels through which professionals and students at undergraduate and graduate levels can visit and stay in rural Ghana, participate in applied research, educational and economic and social development programmes of all kinds, forming relationships and obtaining experiences that will stay with them forever.

To be clear, this is a demanding environment in which to live and work.  It is poor,  infrastructure of all kinds is underdeveloped and making progress with projects requires patience and tenacity. But the rewards are immense and the people in the host communities are, generally speaking, a joy to be with and to work alongside.       

We would love to hear from universities who might be interested in working with us.  To find out more visit or email us at

One thought on “Education for sustainable development in West Africa

  1. I think with education empowerment in Ghana,it will enhance educational activities thereby producing skilled labour which will bring about Development in the country.(

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