There is currently avoidable but widespread suffering and poverty in Africa and many other parts of the world. According to recent World Bank estimates, approximately 10% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1.90 a day. Thus hundreds of millions of people are regularly deprived of basic human needs such as adequate nutrition, education, shelter and sanitation. A significant portion (56%) of those living in extreme poverty reside in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria was recently reported to have the highest number (over 86 million) of extremely poor people of any country in the world. This already dire situation is exacerbated by conflict, political upheaval, diseases, natural disasters and the devastating effects of climate change.
A key requirement of any effective solution is the ability to build human capacity to create innovative solutions through the development of adequately skilled human capital. This can best be achieved through effective education. - Dr. FRANK EDUGHOM EKPAR
Even many of those who escape the dehumanizing deprivations of extreme poverty are subject to chronic financial stress and worrying debt profiles. Many live pay check to pay check without financial security. Additionally, no one is immune to universal threats such as diseases, natural disasters, potential annihilation by events and phenomena originating in outer space, small and large scale warfare -- including nuclear and biological warfare, cyber threats, the ill effects of criminal activities and social vices perpetrated by external agents, natural ageing and death. All and sundry – young and old, rich and poor – face these universal challenges with varying degrees of severity.
Beyond the aforementioned sources of human suffering, there are many unanswered questions and desirable outcomes that humanity generally aspires to. These include the creation of a more secure, peaceful, inclusive and just society and a better understanding of the universe – including its origins and destiny – and our place within it. Other aspirations include the attainment of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that could afford humanity the opportunity to delegate most activities that entail high levels of drudgery and danger to artificial machines and algorithms as well as achieve dramatic gains in efficiency and productivity in all activities for the service of the common good.
It is obvious that the challenges confronting humanity are multifaceted and any proffered solution must be robust and sustainable to have any chance of being effective.
A key requirement of any effective solution is the ability to build human capacity to create innovative solutions through the development of adequately skilled human capital. This can best be achieved through effective education.
There is no gainsaying the fact that all levels of education are important and interdependent in the quest to tackle the numerous challenges confronting humanity. However, we will focus our attention on tertiary or higher education because that is the level at which the results of education typically have the greatest impact on human capacity building with the farthest reaching consequences for sustainable development.
Martin A. Trow reflected on the transition from elite to mass to universal access in higher education based on his earlier classification of higher education into three distinct forms, namely:
We define an inclusive elite university as one that conforms broadly with the structure (selective admission, small class sizes, personalized instruction) of the elite form described by Trow  but in contrast offering inclusivity by basing selective admission primarily on merit and not economic or social status and providing roles that encompass a broader range of technical and economic elite roles.