UO to export sustainability expertise to Gabon
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere, left, speaks with Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba following the Friday signing ceremony to establish a joint research center at the UO and in the west-central African nation of Gabon. (Photo by Peter Lockley, courtesy of University of Oregon.)
University of Oregon is establishing a joint research center headquartered in Eugene and Gabon, West Africa, to study sustainability, economic development and natural resource management.
Richard Lariviere, UO's president, was in Washington, D.C., Friday to meet with Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba to sign the agreement, which will include research and training.
The Gabon-Oregon Transnational Research Center on Environment and Development is part of the university's Global Oregon Initiative, one of UO's five "Big Idea" priorities for research and teaching.
In a press release, President Ondimba emphasized the educational benefit the agreement will bring to Gabon.
"This unique cooperative agreement will enable us to address our urgent educational needs and also modernize our universities and research centers," he said.
The Oregon African Studies Consortium, which includes UO, Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland State University and Willamette University, will partner with the Gabonese government to create a new model for sustainable development in Africa.
Gabonese leaders are pushing to 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.
Gabon, nestled south of Cameroon and west of Congo, has a population of 1.5 million and its economy is supported by its coastal and offshore oil industry. It also boasts national parks covering 11 percent the country, with rain forests covering much of the rest.
While it's sometimes called the "Eden of Africa," Gabon is not without its problems. A meeting between President Ondimba and U.S. President Barrack Obama was called into question this week because of human rights and corruption charges leveled at President Ondimba's family.
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