The Chairman of the Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU), Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali (OON), has underscored the crucial role of universities in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in view of their status as the pinnacle of education and human capacity development.

Prof. Ambali, who is also the Vive-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, made this submission last Monday (September 18, 2017) in his address at the opening ceremony of the Association's 5th Annual Conference and General Meeting held at Hotel Gaweye, Niamey, Niger Republic. The theme for the Conference was “Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals: Role of Universities”.

In his address, entitled “Walking Together”, the AWAU Chairman told a large audience of mostly heads of universities across the West African sub-region that none of the 17 lofty goals can be achieved without education, which he described as “the vehicle that will convey all the SDGs to fruition”

According to Prof. Ambali, “if education is the vehicle, it goes without saying that universities are its engine. Without universities, not only education but the entire SGDs will be a complete nullity”.

The Unilorin helmsman, therefore, submitted that “our universities have significant roles to play at the levels of providing leadership, fostering partnerships, developing human capacity, increasing research, creating awareness and promoting knowledge”.

Prof. Ambali explained that “all these cannot be achieved without commitment to working hard and walking together on the part of the stakeholders from governments and development partners to universities and the people themselves”.

The AWAU Chairman told his colleagues that “what is desirable from us all is the need to keep working and walking together to achieve SDGs as we realise that we cannot clap with one hand”

Pointing out that “universities are established to fast-track development and anything regarding development is within the purview of our institutions”, the AWAU Chairman said, “Our teaching, our research and our community service or engagements should be aimed at adding value to the society”.

He, therefore, challenged the participants to ensure that at the end of the conference, they should “go back and further think of how we can domesticate and attain the SDGs within our institutions and hosting communities”, adding, “If we work well and we walk together by sharing ideas, expertise and values, we will together sail smoothly to the shore of sustainable development, which has been eluding many societies in our region”.

Prof. Ambali explained that the Annual Conference was one of the Association's strategies to meet its objectives of promoting collaboration among member universities. This, according to the AWAU Chairman, is achieved by focusing on thematic issues bordering on development and advancement in the region.

He said, “Since 2012 till date, the Association has been organising annual conferences on diverse themes that are relevant to its vision and mission. This year's conference is not an exemption as it focuses on an apt, crucial and relevant theme: 'Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals: Role of Universities”.

The Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU) was founded on January 10, 2011 at the University of Ilorin through the “Ilorin Declaration” with the main vision of making a significant landmark in the provision of qualitative higher education in the region.

Prof. Ambali was accompanied to the Conference by some top officials of the University including the Vice-Chancellor-designate, Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem.

Others were the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Adedayo Yusuf Abdulkareem; the Director of the Central Research Laboratories, Prof. (Mrs.)Temidayo Oladiji; and the Director, Centre for Research Development and In-House Training  (CREDIT), Prof. B. S. Alabi, among others