When you look at the top universities in Africa as listed in the World University Rankings 2021 (uniRank), you notice some similarities and start differences. One common theme is that pioneering universities in most countries are still the best to date.

The uniRank standings rely mainly on the activity pertaining to the websites of the 13,600 universities and colleges that it ranks, which is a pointer to interest from the general public.

We look at the profiles of the top two universities in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.


The American University in Cairo 

  • Has been running since 1919.
  • Is a private, not-for-profit institution
  • English is the main language of instruction.
  • Has 40 undergraduate, 52 master’s, and two Ph.D. programs.
  • The main campus in Cairo sits on a 260-acre property.
  • Accredited in the United States and Egypt.
  • Currently has students of more than 60 nationalities.
  • Notable alumni include the Queen of Jordan, Rania Al Abdullah, who was in the class of 1991.
Ancient Egypt hieroglyphs

Cairo University.

  • Instituted in 1908.
  • It is the second oldest higher learning institution in Egypt.
  • Is a public institution.
  • The main campus is in Giza, across River Nile.
  • Former secretary-general of the United States, the late Boutros Boutros-Ghali, is an alumnus of the institution.
  • It has produced three past winners of Nobel prizes — one in the Nobel Prize for Literature and two in the Nobel Peace Prize.


University of Ghana

  • Founded in 1948.
  • Is a public institution.
  • Is the oldest higher learning institution in Ghana.
  • Has four colleges: Basic and Applied Sciences, Education, Health Sciences, and Humanities.
  • Has a student population of more than 38,000.
  • Currently enrolls students from more than 70 countries.
  • Notable alumni include former Ghanaian president John Atta Mills.
Fischerboote. Ghanas Strand

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

  • Established in 1951 and is named after Ghana’s founding president.
  • Is a public institution in Kumasi sitting on 2,513 acres.
  • Has six colleges: Science, Engineering, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Art and Built Environment, Health Sciences, and Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Notable alumni include former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan who had part of his tertiary education there.
The Independence Arch of Independence Square of Accra, Ghana at sunset. Inscribed with the words “Freedom and Justice, AD 1957”, commemorates the independence of Ghana, a first for Sub Saharan Africa.


The University of Nairobi

  • The first public university in Kenya, running since 1956.
  • Has the main campus in Nairobi and nine other campuses spread across Kenya.
  • Has enrolment of 84,000 students, 450 professors, and 1,350 international collaborations.
  • Has enrolment of 84,000 students, 450 professors, and 1,350 international collaborations.
  • Incorporates regular, evening, and weekend programs.
  • Notable alumni include Nobel Laureate and environmentalist Wangari Maathai, and William Ruto, the Deputy President of Kenya.

Kenyatta University.

  • Named after Kenya’s founding president and has been running since 1985.
  • Is a public institution
  • The main campus sits on more than 1,000 acres of land and is 18 kilometers from Nairobi.
  • Has 19 schools, including law, medicine, and a digital school of open and virtual learning.
  • Has a full-fledged center for international students to cater for the welfare of international students.
  • Notable alumni include former Kenyan presidents Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa
Kenya education concept.


The University of Lagos.

  •  It is a public institution founded in 1962.
  • The main campus is in Lagos, and it stands on 802 acres of land.
  • Has a distance learning institute and 12 faculties that include law, pharmacy, and social sciences.
  • A Forbes study once ranked it third in Africa in terms of nurturing entrepreneurs.
  • Notable alumni include celebrated entrepreneur Tony Elumelu and musician Yemi Alade.
Nigeria High Resolution University Concept

Covenant University.

  • Is a private Christian university founded in the year 2002.
  • Located in Ota, 34 kilometers from Lagos.
  • Owned by the Living Faith Church Worldwide that is headed by celebrated preacher David Oyedepo, the university’s chancellor.
  • Has unique programs like the center for wealth creation, a counseling center, and the Total Man Concept.
  • Notable alumni are actors and musicians in Nigeria, one being the highly-rated pop singer Simi.
African student female posed with backpack on yard of university, against flags of different countries.


University of Cape Town.

  • Is South Africa’s oldest university, founded in 1829.
  • All campuses combined occupy 25 square kilometers of landmass.
  • Has enrolment capacity of more than 29,000 students and 4,900 staff.
  • Boasts 54 kilometers of shelf space in its libraries.
  • Some of the notable alumni are Nobel Prize winners Ralph Bunche, Prof Allan McLeod Cormack, Aaron Klug, Max Theiler, and John Maxwell Coetzee.
Aerial view of Jameson Hall, University of Cape Town.

University of Pretoria.

  • A public institution established in 1908.
  • Has enrolment of about 53,000 students.
  • The main campus sits on 2,900 acres of land.
  • Recognized as the most productive university in South Africa in terms of producing new research.
  • Notable alumni include Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who studied there briefly before moving to Canada. Four former captains of the Springboks, South Africa’s rugby team, are also old boys of the university.
University of Pretoria campus