Congo Basin Institute
UCLA and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are leading a multi-institutional initiative to develop the Congo Basin Institute, which will be a model for how universities can partner in international development.
Higher education in Central Africa faces numerous challenges. Limited resources and available infrastructure mean some of the best and brightest students leave their home countries to study or work abroad and then remain there — a “brain drain” that means those best skilled to solve the region’s problems are not in the region.
CBI’s approach is different: Build a center of higher learning and center of scientific excellence in Central Africa — generating research that decision makers can use to address sub-Saharan Africa’s interlocking environmental and development challenges.
Expanding on the existing resources and infrastructure of the IITA campus the CBI will serve as a regional nexus for interdisciplinary research, education, training and technology development focused on critical issues facing the Congo Basin with implications for both the developing and developed world: climate change, water and food security, biodiversity, and human and animal health.
Our ultimate vision: To use IITA’s network of 14 campuses across sub-Saharan Africa to build a hub in each country of the region.
CBI as Solution Maker
A number of factors make our approach novel and effective:
- A permanent presence in the region. CBI is based not in New York or Paris but in Cameroon — the “hinge” between Western and Central Africa, and a country diverse in culture, landscapes and biodiversity. Cameroon is an ideal laboratory for innovative solutions appropriate in many situations across Africa.
- An integrated approach. CBI undertakes research on climate change, poverty alleviation, food and water security, human health, and biodiversity. But we examine and understand how they interact — not as concepts in isolation.
- A focus on African scientists. We give African scientists the training and opportunities to do that research — and then bring forward those findings in ways policymakers can take into action.
- University and NGO partners. CBI brings together leading universities, NGOs, government ministries, and corporate and local stakeholders. CBI draws on the University of California — the largest university system in the world, with 200,000 faculty — as well as other university and NGO partners in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Cameroon.
No other organization in the Congo Basin is building problem-solving capacity in this way.