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Pertinent issues discussed at the Belt & Road University Presidents Forum

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Prof. Peter Mbithi, the Vice-Chancellor, makes a presentation during the Belt and Road University President’s forum held at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology.

The University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor, Prof. Peter Mbithi participated in the Belt and Road University President’s forum that was held at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT) on 6 – 7 December, 2017.

Presidents of over 30 Universities across the globe and representatives from Chinese companies exchanged ideas on how to maximize on the opportunities brought about by the Road and Belt Initiative unveiled by China’s President, Xi Jinping.
The Belt and Road initiative is part of China’s answer to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a regional trade pact involving Pacific Rim countries, but excluding China. The Silk Road initiative aims to boost China’s global leadership ambitions by expanding the links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. The Belt and road initiative is an outcome of president Xi Jinping’s component of socialism in a new era. It places a new path for china to engage in global collaborations. Over 80 international organizations and 140 countries have supported the belt and road initiative and incorporated belt and road activities. Resource sharing and innovative synergies are of great importance to achieve this.
The Belt and Road initiative is aimed at promoting global governance and building a bridge for people to people connectivity. BUCT seeks to follow the principles of peace, cooperation and collaborations with research Universities and institutions to build the road and belt initiative.
Speaking during the forum, Prof. Wang Fang, the Chair of the University Affairs Council at BUCT indicated that this was the first belt and road for University Presidents (Vice Chancellors). She further pointed out that the aim of the forum was to promote cooperation among countries within the belt and road in order to build a shared community for mankind, share experiences and offer talent and technical support.
It is expected that through this initiative, an education action map for the belt and road initiative will be developed. This will include mutual learning, mutual benefit, talent cultivation, people to people exchanges, bilateral and multilateral collaborations and regional collaborations for the education sector.
In his speech titled ‘Developing Skilled Workforce in Africa for Belt and Road Initiative through Sino-African Partenership’, Prof. Peter Mbithi indicated that there is urgent need to address African Skills shortage particularly in areas of technical education, engineering, science and technology if the Belt & Road Initiative is to be successful. . He further said that it is imperative to invest in the capacity building of African higher education institutions particularly in infrastructure, curriculum and laboratory equipment. A Capacity Building program of African Higher Institutions is  critical to help break the three development bottlenecks; backward infrastructure, talent shortage and inadequate funds.
Prof. Wang Hui-Deputy Director-Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges, Ministry of Education in China maintained that countries should make use of benefits like geographical advantages, scholarship programs, advance human resource training and capacity development to develop based on their own unique advantages, to innovate mechanisms and platforms for institutional innovations and to conduct training of international students. Co-building and sharing culture and sustainable development models is also critical for universities to reveal their potential, establish scientific research zones, share outcomes of research and get synergies. To achieve this, peace, prosperity, openness and innovation must be achieved.
Therefore if the Road and Belt initiative is to be realized, there is need for Universities along the Silk Road to establish an educational cooperation platform to promote extensive scientific research cooperation among other areas of collaboration to boost Higher Education standards worldwide.