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A Case Study of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa

A Case Study of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa

Publication Date: 
September, 2010

The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (Partnership) was a ten-year funder collaborative that sought to strengthen higher education in Africa.

Established in 2000, the initiative came at a critical time in African history. A number of nations were implementing democratic and economic reforms. Universities and other institutions of higher education were experiencing resurgence after years of neglect in favor of primary and sec- ondary education. A new energy and resourcefulness was apparent.

Leaders of the Partnership foundations saw an opportunity to make a difference by encouraging systemic and sustainable change to higher education institutions in countries where they were already actively working. The Partnership focused its support on universities in nine countries: Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. The original members of the Partnership were Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller, Ford and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundations. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Kresge Foundation later joined the Partnership.

In 2010, the Partnership secretariat closed. In ten years, the Partnership could count several successes among its work, including a collective investment of nearly half a billion dollars aimed at strengthening higher education in Africa. Achieving such a scale of funding and period of working together is highly unusual among funders, particularly given the complex logistics of working across nine countries, seven foundations, and five time zones.

The purpose of this case study is to describe lessons that can be drawn from this unique, ten-year philanthropic collaborative, particularly for foundation program officers who may be interested or involved in similar collaboratives. Over the course of the collaborative, participants from foundations with different cultures, leadership styles, and missions came together to find ways that their work together could enhance their individual foundation grantmaking and their collective impact in Africa.

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