Pioneering partners seek sustainability

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Transnational research centre supports joint research endeavours and matches American expertise to Gabon's vision for sustainable economic development

University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere met recently with Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba in Washington, in the USA, and entered into a groundbreaking research and training partnership with the west-central African nation.

The agreement will result in creation of a centre for Gabon-Oregon transnational research on environment and development, jointly headquartered in Eugene in America and the Gabonese capital of Libreville. The centre represents a new partnership that will enable multinational, shared research and two-way training of students from both global regions. It was established as part of the UO's Global Oregon Initiative, an internationalisation effort that was selected as one of five "Big Ideas" to define universitywide priorities for interdisciplinary research and teaching.

Strong partnerships

"Gabon's emergence requires the establishment of a world-class system of education. We need to not only reinforce our training programmes, but also establish strong and deep partnerships like the one we are creating with Oregon," said Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba. "This unique cooperative agreement will enable us to address our urgent educational needs and also modernise our universities and research centres," he said.

The UO-led, five-campus Oregon African Studies Consortium – which also draws from academic experts at Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland State University and Willamette University – will partner with the Gabonese government to fulfill its vision of turning the country into a laboratory for a new model of development for Africa. Gabonese leaders are pioneering a move from an economy based mainly on oil to sustainable natural resource management, low-impact ecotourism and significant investments in education and human capital development.

"Oregon and Gabon share abundant natural beauty, economies traditionally based on natural resources and a strong commitment to green, sustainable development. These similarities will make for a wonderful partnership," Lariviere said.

An economic crossroad

"Gabon is at an economic crossroad that can never be revisited," he said. "The University of Oregon is recognised as a world leader in research and teaching in the areas of sustainable development, environmental conservation and green business. We are honored to be able to share our experience and expertise with the Gabonese government as it strives to make critical decisions about the country's future."

A rich, emergent nation Gabon, with a population of 1.5mn, is one of the richest nations in its region after 50 years of coastal and offshore oil production. But its leaders acknowledge that oil will not last forever, and its democratically-elected president has introduced a sweeping 'Gabon Emergent' programme to shift the country's economic focus, eliminate government corruption that existed before his 2009 election, and modernise the country's workforce.

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