Francophone Group Holds First Summit in Asia

Fighting poverty to get people beyond survival takes more than basic education, according to the new president of the Agence Uni­ver­sitaire de la Francophonie, which represents universities and institutions of countries that share French heritage.

“To sell at a local market and sup­­port his family, a farmer may manage as long as he can count,” said Charles Gombe Mbalawa, who was elected the agency’s pres­i­dent on Saturday.

But if people want to start making profits and venture into larger markets, they will need knowledge that cannot be “improvised” and that requires higher education, Gombe Mbalawa said at a Sunday news conference in Phnom Penh on the heels of the agency’s two-day meeting.

The agency plans to lobby government leaders to include higher education in their development pro­grams at the next summit of the Francophonie heads of states in Bucharest, Romania, next year, he said.

On Friday and Saturday, more than 220 delegates representing 535 universities and post-graduates institutions in 62 countries were in Phnom Penh for the 14th general meeting of the agency.

It was the first time the agency’s general meeting was convened in Asia.

Held every four years, its 2001 meeting was in Canada.

The event ended with the election of new members to the agen­cy’s boards. Simon Long, un­der secretary of Franco­phone matters at the Cambodian Ministry of For­eign Affairs, now sits on the ad­min­­istrative board. Phoeurng Sac­kona of the Tech­no­logical Institute of Cam­bodia has joined the institution’s board.

Asked about the tarnished reputation of some universities in Cam­bodia, Gombe Mbalawa mention­ed as a possible solution an international diploma label that had been created in Africa to raise universities’ reputations. African institutions have to meet quality standards to participate because the di­ploma label is now a mark of excellence, he said.

Agency programs include improving quality at participating universities, said Michele Gen­dreau-Massaloux, the agen­cy’s rec­tor.

Cambodia has four full-mem­ber and four associate institutions in the agency.


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