Since the mid-1990's, a number of University at Albany faculty have been involved in linking the University with a number of institutions of higher learning within Africa. In early 1990, Dr. Eloise Briere (Professor of French) established a Visiting Scholars and Fulbright Scholars Program focusing on French-speaking African countries. Carol Whittaker (Assistant Dean in the School of Public Health) was coincidentally involved in exploring opportunities for health-related research and student internships in Africa.
Through a U.S. Department of Education grant obtained by Dr. Kwadwo Sarfoh (Professor of Africana Studies), Dr. Shirley Jones (Professor of Social Welfare) went to explore the possiblities of linkage and exchange programs in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The initial contact was made by Dr. Sarfoh with three universities in South Africa. Dr. Sarfoh was followed by Dr. Alex Shane, former director of the Office of International Programs. Following the recommendations of this group, the University at Albany established study abroad programs with the University of Cape Town and the University of Natal at Durban, South Africa. In 2002 Distiniguished Service Professor Emerita Shirley J. Jones, director of the U.S. African Partnership for Building Stronger Communities Project and instructor of a 3-credits School of Social Welfare course on African social and economic policies and programs, conceived of the idea for the Consortium. Dr. Jones secured funds through a grant from the University at Albany Office of Affirmative Action to initiate the project. To help coordinate faculty and student activities on the African continent and at the University at Albany, the Consortium on Africa convened for its first meeting in November of 2003.