Prof Akilakpa Sawyerr, the Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), has appealed to African governments to give more support for institutions of higher learning, particularly the universities.
He said this would enable them to contribute constructively in attaining the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Prof Sawyer said this in an address read for him at the national celebration of the 'African Universities Day' at the University of Cape Coast (UCC).
He said there was the need for partnerships between African governments, productive communities and universities.
Prof Sawyerr called for support to enable the universities to enhance training in science and technology, since current labour trends are pushing the demand for skills away from industry to services, and from a public sector dominated paradigm to public-private partnerships.
He said services had become tradable and that service exports had changed the fortunes of many countries such as India, Israel, Ireland and South Africa.
"African universities are eager to support African economies to become big players in a service driven global economy.
To be able to perform this historical role, they need support for science and technology.
'' Prof Sawyer appealed to African governments to make the year 2006 a year of African universities.
He said the opportunity could be used to help African universities, both public and private, to have a voice in the planning and evaluation of major policies and obligations.
Prof Sawyerr said if governments could extend support to the universities' earning capacity through grants, franchises, contracts guarantees and endowments, their user charges would be "lowered to the level at which they could be easily affordable by many".
Mr Bernardin Senadza, of the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, said cross-border provision of higher education has come about because in Ghana for instance, less than 50 per cent of qualified applicants gain admission into the universities.
''This type of education includes distance learning, establishment of branch campuses and exchange programmes, and that Ghana ranks third among African countries whose students have gone abroad, particularly to the United States and United Kingdom, for higher learning.
'' He said some of the country's universities, were also providing cross-border education for students particularly from Nigeria and the US, thereby deriving some amount of revenue.
The Vice-Chancellor of the UCC, Rev Prof Emmanuel Adow Obeng, said Africa now finds itself in an era characterised by liberalisation of all sectors of national economies, including education.
This, he said, calls for a serious look to be taken at cross-border provision of higher education on the continent, not only, at the institutional level, but also at the governmental level.
The Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Prof.
Kwesi Andam, expressed concern about the inability of the country's public universities to admit all qualified applicants and stressed the need to expand infrastructure.