To this end, he called on universities to convince the so-called political class in Africa that tertiary education institutions are central to the African development agenda.
Mbeki made these comments in his keynote address at the inaugural Times Higher Education Africa Universities summit at the University of Johannesburg.
“It is only once they are convinced about all this that it would be possible for our governments to lead the process which would result in the substantially large public funding that is required,” the former president said yesterday.
“Perhaps the recognition of the need for an African knowledge society to achieve the Africa we want by 2063 is exactly the message we need to signal the commitment of our political leadership to provide the resources which will enable the African university to play its role.”
He said the governments of many African countries came to view expenditure on universities and higher education as a “burdensome” but unavoidable cost rather than an absolutely necessary and beneficial investment.
He said there was fairly extensive literature about how the healthy relationship between the state and the university came to be “weakened” and then “destroyed”.
“This was linked to the perception among the African ruling elite that the universities were serving as centres of political opposition to this elite,” Mbeki said yesterday.
“These combined in a process which led to the impoverishment and weakening as well as the marginalisation of the African university from both the state and the development agenda.”