The new Columbia Global Centers | Africa first opened its doors in January of 2012 in Nairobi and represents the culmination of the University’s impactful engagement with Africa spanning several years. The signing of a Host Country Agreement with the Government of Kenya established the Center as an international organization, providing a number of privileges and immunities to enable complex research, policy, and academic activities to take place.
The Center aims to:
- Enable the highest levels of knowledge and learning in and for Africa
- Create a hub for global curriculum and scholarly outreach in the region
- Link the academic pursuits of the Global Center to Columbia’s main campus and around the world
- Advance Columbia’s vision of producing 21st century global citizens, equipped to meet today’s greatest challenges
The establishment of the Center ushers in an exciting in an exciting new era in objective, unbiased scholarship in and for Africa. The Nairobi Center aims to become the preeminent research and development institute providing thought leadership, cutting edge research, and expansion of scientific knowledge in the region. As an essential hub in the global centers network, and the only one to be based in Africa, the Center links Kenya and the continent to a vast body of knowledge, scholarship and enquiry, and provides an avenue for Africa to influence debates at the highest level.
In the field of development, the Center aims to contribute to the fight against poverty undertaken by African Governments under the umbrella of the Millennium Development Goals. Toward this end, the Center will facilitate research, dialogue and technical support for African countries. The Center will also work closely with policy makers, governments, and regional and African institutions including the African Union (AU), Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), providing them with objective, science-based advice free of bias or self-interest. The Center will create a platform for high-level policy dialogue, and a forum that celebrates free speech, good governance and basic human rights.
The Center’s office are gradually being filled with Columbia University programs, schools, students, and academics, who are working closely with Kenyan Government Ministries, and Kenya-based NGOs and universities to conduct a host of research and development initiatives.
The Center now houses the Earth Institute’s Millennium Villages Project (MVP), founded by Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Launched in 2005, the MVP is the only concerted effort to help rural Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and empower communities to lift themselves out of poverty. The MDG Centre provides technical backstopping and operational support the Project from its base at the Nairobi Center offices. It also hosts the Earth Institute’s Millennium Cities Initiative, which assists sub-Saharan cities to achieve these goals.
The Center also houses the Drylands Initiative, an ambitious, comprehensive, six-country programme to boost capacity of dryland communities in drought-prone areas of Africa, launched in 2010.
The Nairobi Center has also launched a collaboration with the School of Engineering, housing the School’s IT Lab since earlier this year. Projects underway include shared solar, ChildCount ++, and rapid soil testing. E-health and e-agriculture applications and technology will also be developed. Starting next year, the Center will implement the second phase of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) in Africa funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This 16 million dollar project will be completed in 2017, with an additional four million dollars from other funding sources.
Looking towards the future, a core function of the Center will host Columbia’s Undergraduate Program, and student placement in the Millennium Villages will also continue. Discussions are also under way with the Mailman School of Public Health regarding the human nutrition program. A planned collaboration with the Borlaug Institute, also under discussion, aims to bring together five universities on developing agriculture and education programs in four African countries.
A number of other Columbia schools have expressed an interest in pursuing programmatic objectives in collaboration with CGC Africa, including The Graduate School of Architecture and the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. 2013 will be an exciting year for the Center as these collaborations begin to take effect and the Center is officially launched. The Nairobi Center is set to become an essential and dynamic hub in Columbia’s global center network.
The Columbia Global Centers Network
There are currently eight Columbia Global Centers operating in Amman, Beijing, Mumbai, Paris, Istanbul, Nairobi, Santiago, and Rio de Janeiro. The centers encourage new relationships across schools, institutes, and academic departments at Columbia. Attuned to the priorities and unique circumstances of its host region, each center leverages the University’s diverse intellectual capacities from across the undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, and pursues a set of university-wide core activities that evolves over time based on the active engagement of faculty and students. The centers help increase international content in the classroom; supplement the curriculum with international study abroad, internship opportunities, and course offerings; provide resources needed to attract students from abroad; facilitate research opportunities for Columbia students and faculty on globally relevant, interdisciplinary topics; and provide a point of ongoing engagement for international alumni.
Functioning as a network, the global centers encourage teaching and research that require working across disciplinary boundaries, having a presence in multiple regions, and engaging non-Columbia experts and scholars from those regions. Some of the centers’ programs and research initiatives are country-specific, some regional, and an increasing number are multi-regional, even global. The network is in its infancy, and each center has started by building strong links with universities and institutions in its respective region. The long-term ambition is that many programs will have a global reach and involve multiple centers in the network engaged in truly global conversations.
To learn more, please visit the Columbia Global Centers website.