With the aim of providing information about the institutions while also showing how historical trends over the past half-century have influenced the development of higher education, comes the South Africa's first regional guide. Southern Africa's first regional guide to universities is aimed at providing information about the institutions while also showing how historical trends over the past half-century have influenced the development of higher education. Produced by the Southern African Regional Universities' Association, SARUA, the guide will be updated regularly. SARUA Handbook 2009, a guide to the public universities of Southern Africa begins with a short overview of the history of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) comprising Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is followed by an introduction to the work of SARUA and then alphabetically-organised profiles placing countries in regional, historical and socio-political contexts and describing their public higher education institutions – some 66 in all.
Most of the information in the handbook was provided by Southern African governments and institutions as part of a 2008 regional study conducted by SARUA. In a foreword, SARUA Chief Executive Piyushi Kotecha describes Southern Africa as globally unique, largely because of the high number of settler colonies established in the region and subsequent long independence struggles. Only South Africa had a solid higher education system before the 1950s – indeed, when Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere led his country's push for independence in 1954, he was one of only two citizens who had a university education, she writes. The SARUA handbook points out that although SADC is under-resourced and faces major challenges, there is clear understanding among all countries that they will only be overcome through economic cooperation and integration. A free trade area is already in place, to be followed by a customs union, SADC common market, monetary union and single currency. SARUA has since established ties with key regional and international higher education bodies, attracted support from international donors, and launched programmes dealing with university governance and leadership, the ICT facilities available to universities, development of science and technology, and managing the HIV-Aids pandemic.