This paper considers the actualization of sustainable development in African universities. It draws on Deleuze's (1995) concept of "event" to develop analytical lenses for considering different ways in which sustainable development is interpreted in African universities; the problems that sustainable development is responding to; and the ways in which sustainable development is actualized in events, networks, practices and experiences of universities. This analysis is based on a review of a wide range of over 200 documents, policy statements and emerging university practices. It also draws on a recent survey involving a number of universities in Africa.
The analysis is located within a wider understanding of the short, yet complex history of African universities, and knowledge that foundational concepts of sustainable development are not new to Africa. The paper argues that actualization of sustainable development in African universities must be contextualized within history; and within contemporary constrains and influences on practice.
The paper closes by drawing attention to the problématique of narrowly or technically interpreting sustainable development in African universities. Reminded by Ferguson (2006) that our academic concepts are often inadequate for the times, the paper asks whether sustainable development is an adequate concept of "event" guiding education in Africa.