HALI Indaba 2023: Building an Impactful Network

On 11th September 2023, 75 advocates of higher education access gathered in Lusaka, Zambia for the 8th annual HALI Access Network Indaba to share experiences and deliberate strategies to expand higher education access for African HALI students. HALI is an acronym for high-achieving, low-income, a category of students our community is on a mission to serve. The HALI Access Network continues to grow bigger and more diverse. This year, we welcomed over 20 Friends of HALI and 50 representatives of HALI Member organizations representing over 25 nationalities.

The gathering explored the theme of ‘Building an Impactful Network’ through breakout sessions, TedTalk style sessions, Challenge Carousels, Seminal reading, and lots of fun activities. Our seminal reading from the book Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students” by Abraham Anthony Jack provoked our audience to think about the meaning of fit for a low-income student aspiring to enroll in a university/college abroad. Oftentimes, low-income students prioritize financial fit above all else, but as we all know, there is a lot more to consider when choosing to leave your home country for higher education such as students’ academic interests, life beyond their studies, and career opportunities after graduation. What can counselors and admissions officers do to better support HALI students in understanding what fit looks like for their unique interests, circumstances, and aspirations? Beyond admissions, how can counselors and HEI stakeholders support HALI students to stay connected to their home communities and their aspirations for those communities?  We explored these questions further in a discussion based on the film “A Brief Tender Light” with the film producer Arthur Musa. 

“There are tremendous benefits to the most brilliant youth in Africa learning at the best global universities. But we must get it right in supporting these brilliant Africans to return to their home countries, in various ways, to develop society here”.

Misco Mungai

HALI Access Network

The Indaba is not an ordinary conference, in fact, it is not a conference but rather a gathering of passionate, committed like-minded people. It invites raw and honest conversations, intentional problem-solving, and action planning to advocate for better access. If your work includes supporting HALI students to access tertiary education, and you haven’t been to an Indaba, you are missing out.  

“The Indaba is very Africa-focused and people are willing to ask and answer questions that you probably wouldn’t explore at other conferences in the level of detail we are doing here.”

Mulongo Muchelemba

Rhodes Trust

“I like that at the Indaba, people really want to take action. We all want to leave here with action plans or assignments that we can take back to our institutions to make sure that all the wonderful conversations we’re having here don’t get lost”.

Cassidy Martin

Smith College

It was exciting to gather over 350 secondary school seniors, counselors, and parents from 8 top public and private schools in Lusaka to interact with the university representatives who attended the Indaba. As our network grows, we hope to find more opportunities to share, with a larger audience, the resources and connections that HALI Members have. 

“I liked that there were a variety of universities, and they gave us thorough answers to all our queries.” Dayanna, Lusaka Oaktree School 

“I would gladly like to thank the organizers of the Fair for allowing me to experience such an occasion. I am looking forward to more like it.” – Ilukena, Pestalozzi Education Center

What’s one word or phrase that describes your Indaba experience?

“It’s been an incredible week uniting again to talk about access on the continent”.

James Akaba

Open Dreams Cameroon

“Learning, learning and more learning”

Linet Aguko

USIU - Africa

“Energizing! The Indaba has always been my one big opportunity to refocus and get re-energized for the year”.

Abraham Barry


Special shout out to the Zambia Logistics Committee: Clarence and Chikuku from Pestalozzi World Zambia, Helen from Our Moon Education, Joshua from Kucetekela Foundation, and Natalie from Enko Education for bringing all of us to Zambia seamlessly. And our Indaba Agenda Committee: Abraham from Meto, Mary from Education For All Children, Musah from NOLBED Foundation, Rebecca from Education Matters, and Sahara from Zawadi Africa for preparing a thought-provoking, engaging, and relevant agenda. Immense gratitude to all our community members who facilitated a session and brought the agenda to life. 

Our community is grateful to the 2023 Indaba sponsors: African Leadership Academy, Duolingo, Pioneer Academics, Schmidt Futures through the Rise program, and Unifrog for supporting our mission and making it possible for us to gather in Lusaka. We applaud these organizations’ commitment to increasing opportunity for HALI African students, breaking access barriers, and promoting collaboration among higher education stakeholders. Thank you! Zikomo!

We are inspired, invigorated, and ready to build a more impactful network. We cannot wait to gather again in September 2024 in Rwanda. 

Watch our Indaba highlight video here.

With gratitude,

The HALI Access Network Secretariat