Fundraising to build staff capacity
Universities on the continent are calling for the creation of a Higher Education Fund in Africa to help build teaching capacity in institutions. They argue that such a fund would also help increase the number of female professors and researchers engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM fields, in higher education institutions.
The 129 member universities of the Regional University Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), from 38 countries, also want the African Union (AU) and governments to take over and lead the initiative.
“We call on the AU Commission and the Committee of 10 African Heads of State and Government (C10) who champion education, science and technology in Africa, to create a Higher Education Fund for the ‘Africa in order to strengthen staff capacities and increase the pool of women scientists in African universities,’ they pleaded in a statement released on June 17 during a United Nations pre-Summit virtual dialogue event on food systems (UNFSS).
The 2021 Food Systems Pre-Summit is scheduled to take place July 26-28.
The Committee of 10 was formed by the General Assembly of the African Union in 2015, with the aim of championing education, science, technology, training and innovation as key agents and drivers in the achievement of Africa’s development program. The current members of the committee are Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius, Kenya, Tunisia, Egypt, Gabon, Chad, Sierra Leone and Senegal.
In addition, the institutions called on governments to intensify their efforts to mobilize resources for different initiatives in Africa that support the development of human capital with the potential to increase the continent’s capacities in research and innovation as well as entrepreneurship, says the press release issued at the event organized by RUFORUM.
“More specifically, we propose that efforts be directed towards ensuring that the results of investments in university education, training, research, innovation and outreach programs, especially highly qualified alumni and graduates. technologies generated, are integrated and used to stimulate local and continental communities. -Large-scale economic recovery and socio-economic development, ”they said in a statement read by Professor Teresa Akenga, vice-chancellor of the University of Eldoret, Kenya.
Food systems research
On food systems, they called for efforts to be directed towards strengthening research to generate technologies and innovations that improve agricultural productivity and added value.
Efforts must also be made to improve nutrition, post-harvest management and to respond to emerging threats, including climate change and environmental degradation.
The institutions are committed to working with national, regional and international partners from the public and private sectors and civil society, to improve the quality of higher education, research and innovation, and to build capacity and facilitate “equitable access to knowledge and skills”.
The government of Malawi was trying to improve the quality of higher education and research by strengthening the “education value chain,” said Agnes Makonda Nyalonje, Minister of Education of Malawi.
The ministry, she noted, was also implementing reforms in a number of other areas, including promoting “evidence-based policy and decision-making and with an emphasis on good governance. “.
In addition, the Ministry of Education had set up two new directorates, the directorate of science, technology and innovation (STI) and the directorate of open, distance and online learning (ODeL ).
“The STI directorate will facilitate the integration of science, technology and innovation into curricula, including agriculture, at all levels of education, from pre-primary to higher education. The management of ODeL will strive to improve access to education and ensure the continuity of learning in emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic ”, said Nyalonje during Of the reunion.
The southern African nation was working to strengthen the links between its universities and the private sector, in order to provide students with work experience and learning and internship opportunities.
In addition, the Minister noted that the government constantly seeks to obtain international support likely to facilitate the development of “innovative academic programs”.
One of these innovative university courses had been the introduction of a PhD in Food Systems at the University of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Lilongwe, and the World Bank sponsored fisheries science training under the project. of African Center of Excellence, Aquafish, also at the university. .
At the same time, added the Minister, Malawi was supporting postgraduate research in agriculture that would lead to both commercialization and industrialization, in line with the country’s development agenda MW2063. This was in addition to the introduction of vocational schools and community technical colleges, some of them offering training related to agriculture.
According to Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Africa remains the most “science hungry” continent in the world. This, he said, called for increased investment in agricultural research from the current average of 1% of agricultural gross domestic product.
He added that the continent could not afford to underestimate the role of research in improving agriculture and food systems in Africa, and research institutions should continue to apply and promote science and technology to reduce food insecurity and end malnutrition on the continent.
The pre-UNFSS dialogues in Africa will culminate on July 1 at a Heads of State and Government event to which a number of presidents and heads of government have been invited and are expected to attend, said Adipala Ekwamu, executive secretary of the RUFORUM.
The UNFSS was designed to, among other things, raise awareness and provoke public debate on reforming food systems for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he noted.
The academic organization RUFORUM has been chosen by the United Nations as one of the champions of the UNFSS, to “mobilize a wide range of voices in all regions of the world, to engage and develop an inclusive coalition for the transformation of systems food through coordinated actions. before, during and after the summit, ”said Adipala.
Earlier in June, universities called for increased investment in research and innovation to enable scientists to explore factors of agricultural production that could be used to improve sustainable food production and consumption on the continent.
They called on Africa’s development actors, including governments, to raise funds for science to ensure that resources such as land and water are used sustainably and that appropriate technologies are generated. for the benefit of its growing population.