The singer is negotiating with a consortium led by a Malaysian entrepreneur, Abdul Rahman, and the multinational construction firm Kvaerner, which plans to spend pounds 300m on the institutions in Tunisia, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, providing places for 32,000 students, primarily in business- related courses.
Mr Rahman, president of a Singapore-based firm, Global Aero Design, says they will be non-profit making, and will equip young Africans to take "an influential role in their countries' development as entrepreneurs, policy-makers and marketeers". Jackson, whose wealth is estimated at pounds 490m, would be a venture partner and figurehead.
The amount he put in would depend on how much is raised from other sources, including investment and donations from companies with interests in Africa, bank loans and educational grants. The Malaysian Trade and Investment Corporation may handle majority funding.
"Michael is very much involved in humanitarian projects in Africa so when I mooted this idea with him he was very positive about going ahead," said Mr Rahman. A spokeswoman for the performer said no figures had been discussed. Jackson was "attracted" by the project but participation would depend on the co-contributors and the countries involved.
"I think it is well known that he has a professional interest in children and young people, especially in developing countries," she added. "Africa has a special place in his heart and he has a special relationship with the African public."