African Union Chairperson announces a Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government to Champion Higher Education in Africa

Her Excellency Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission at the fifth Biennial Conference and Higher Education Week in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo Credit: Aletta Harrison

Her Excellency Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission at the fifth Biennial Conference and Higher Education Week in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo Credit: Aletta Harrison

Ten African Heads of State and Government have been constituted into a Committee to champion Higher Education, Science and Technology in Africa, as part of the efforts to strengthen the role of Science and Technology to enhance the realization of economic growth on the continent.

This announcement was made by Her Excellency, Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission at the opening Ceremony of the Regional University Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Fifth Biennial Conference and African Higher Education Week, 2016. The event took place on the 18th October, 2016 at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Committee of 10, will support the implementation of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa and ensure that Science, Technology and Innovation can be used to drive economic growth in Africa.

The Committee of 10 will be coordinated by the His Excellency Macky Sall, President of Senegal and include two Heads of State from each of the five African regions. Below is the list of the 10 Heads of State;

No. Region Country Member
1.        West Africa


Senegal President Macky Sall
2.        Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Karoma
3.        North Africa


Egypt President Abdel Fattah El Sisi
4.        Tunisia President Beji Caid Essebsi
5.        Southern Africa Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika
6.        Namibia President Have Geingob
7.        Eastern Africa Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta
8.        Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
9.        Central Africa Chad President Idriss Deby Itno
10.    Gabon President Bongo Odimba

The RUFORUM Board Chair and Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Prof. Mabel Imbuga thanked the African Union for putting in place the Committee of 10, which she heralded as a major milestone in the efforts to achieve Agenda 2063 – Building the Africa We want.

She confirmed the readiness of the RUFORUM Network to implement actions to strengthen Higher Education and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) development in Africa. Click here to download the full press release.



A life changing experience

Written by: Sesethu Nyeleka, University of Fort Hare, South Africa

Sesethu Nyeleka (Right), Professor V. (Center) and  Muchenje, Avela Mxhunyelwa (Left) at the just concluded RUFORUM Biennial Conference, 2016

Sesethu Nyeleka (Right), Professor V. Mxhunyelwa (Center) and Muchenje Avela (Left) at the just concluded RUFORUM Biennial Conference, 2016

The fifth biennial RUFORUM conference held from the 17th to the 21st of October was the first of its kind on the South African Soil. The conference took place at Century City Conference Center in Cape Town, co-organized with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Centre for Coordinating Agricultural Research in Southern Africa (CCARDESA), and six RUFORUM member universities in South Africa namely Stellenbosch University, University of Free State, University of Fort Hare, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria and University of Venda. This year’s theme was Linking Agricultural Universities with Civil society, the Private Sector, Governments and other stake holders in support of Agricultural Development in Africa.

The event brings African Universities together to share knowledge and expertise in various agricultural fields. It also presents a great opportunity for one to socialize and build a network across Africa. The conference was graced by a number of Heads of State both from Africa and abroad, chairperson of the African Union H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, University Vice Chancellors from Across Africa, industry experts and students.

This year was my first appearance at the RUFORUM Conference and I had no idea what to expect. I only could relate with the conference particularly through its relevancy to my academic work. However, all my expectations were exceeded. I was blown away by the excellence and the quality of work that was delivered at the conference both by university researchers and industry experts.

I could not have anticipated the light bulb moments I had from listening, leaning and interacting with the different personalities. I particularly enjoyed the session titled “Integrating video-mediated rural learning in University curricula”. That session for me was my “aha” moment as it demonstrated the possibilities of how I too can make a contribution towards improving agricultural services to those who need them the most. From the session, I learnt how the lives of smallholder farmers can be positively impacted through video learning.

Having African Universities share their African experiences and knowledge was inspirational and left me challenged to do my part to contribute towards the Africa that the rest of the Africans and I envisage.

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and indeed RUFORUM Conference made me realise that we can influence the world through African eyes and that is possible.

Professor Muchenje, Dr Njisane with the University of Fort Hare Post Graduate Students

Professor Muchenje, Dr Njisane and University of Fort Hare Post Graduate Students

Attending the conference was an eye-opening experience for me because the knowledge imparted on me, particularly knowledge about African Extension Services has changed my perception about the future of Small-holder farmers in Africa. Through this conference, I have realized that the future of Africa is in the hands of those who are passionate about influencing positive change to the continent.

Kwame Nkrumah put it this way “I am not an Africans because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me” which makes me believe that Africans young and old are more than capable of building their continent.


Partnership to transform agricultural education

By Munyaradzi Makoni, University World News

A ground-breaking partnership between the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) and The MasterCard Foundation is aiming to strengthen efforts to revamp the agriculture curriculum across Africa.

It is seeking to transform agriculture into a vibrant sector linked to African universities that can produce high-performing graduates and high-quality research.

The eight-year programme backed with US$27.1 million from The MasterCard Foundation was launched during the Fifth African Higher Education Week and the RUFORUM Biennial Conference held from 17-21 October at the Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa.

Aligned to the anticipated boost in agriculture, the meeting, attended by vice-chancellors from more than 60 universities in Africa, among the 700 delegates, had as its theme, “Linking agricultural universities with the civil society, the private sector, governments and other stakeholders in support of agricultural development”.

New agriculture model

“This is an exciting opportunity for RUFORUM to strengthen agriculture in Africa, by connecting to empower all players, learning institutions, agriculture communities and the private sector to connect knowledge needed to boost the sector,” Peter Materu, director, education and learning, The MasterCard Foundation, told University World News.

There has been a lot of knowledge that has not been connected for the benefit of society, said Materu, adding that smallholder farmers will be the main feature of this programme as they have often been left out in the past. Also, rising food demands make urban agriculture even more necessary.

A new agriculture curriculum for universities was critical in absorbing and feeding the burgeoning youthful population across the continent, he said.

There were a lot of young people between 15 and 24 years of age in Africa, a figure expected to double by 2050, pushing the demand for jobs and food even higher. The most affected were typically the poor youth, he said. At a time when urban migration and youth poverty in urban centres are increasing because economies in countries are not growing, agriculture could be a solution to the problem.

“There is a need to do more to increase the productivity of agriculture and the universities have a role to play,” said Materu, adding that connecting university education to the needs of the agriculture communities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development was never more relevant than now.

The curriculum will have to be tailored to meet these needs, he said, and a lot of knowledge exists on how communities, universities and industry can best interact, but much of the knowledge is not fully utilised on how these groups can work together to strengthen agriculture.

RUFORUM has a network that supports some universities and it will reach many more universities and also attract other institutions, said Materu.

“We anticipate that RUFORUM will be open to knowledge from institutions in the world that have been working with communities in agriculture so that we can fast-track this training,” he said.

The practical component will be stronger in the programme as students will have the opportunity to work with farmers in the community, Materu added. “Studying and working in an environment in which the farmers work will help famers to improve,” he said.

Recruitment of students

Dr Anthony Egeru, Regional Coordinator of The MasterCard Foundation and RUFORUM project, said the recruitment of students with a passion for agriculture starts in December and selected students will go through orientation for a month in June-July before university starts.

A total of 210 students, 110 undergraduates and 110 postgraduates, who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will be trained. 70% of recruits will come from countries where early adopter universities of the new model are based and 30% are expected to come from countries that are in difficult circumstances.

“They will strive for gender equity, with 60% of women being recruited,” Materu said.

Gulu University in Uganda and Egerton University in Kenya have been named the early adopters of the programme.

“These universities have already been collecting information and researching the needs of farming communities and educating students while they work with farmers, which made them a leading choice to run the pilot,” said Egeru.

Yet another opportunity for transformative action research will come from using the expanded RUFORUM Community Action Research Programme, or CARP, to enrich university-led community impact. CARP will extend to include technical and vocational education and training institutions to improve joint work between colleges and universities.

Transformation through internationalisation

The initial focus of the programme is not about internationalisation of higher education but making sure African universities have greater focus on meaningful contribution to development, said Egeru.

But internationalisation will occur through the knowledge transfer process as the programmes developed by Gulu and Egerton universities scale up, he explained.

To enrich the programme, partnerships will be forged with various global institutions that are running advanced programmes similar to those under discussion, such as Earth University in Costa Rica, Entrepreneurship for Impact Foundation based in Italy and Harvard University.

“So parts of the programme will begin to internationalise even if it is just for the content of one course,” Egeru said, adding that the idea is to ensure that students will benefit from leadership training that will make them the next generation of agricultural leaders.

He said the key component of entrepreneurship will be strengthened in universities, through a competitive entrepreneurship challenge fund, and this will be done in a way that allows students to write and test their business proposals.

“The students will not only become thought leaders, they will become part of the key component on entrepreneurship which will extend to universities through the entrepreneurship challenge fund, which will catalyse entrepreneurship training in universities,” Egeru told University World News.

The fund will cater for learning experiences that simulate a real business environment and so students will learn about issues such as how to pay tax and the ethics of doing business.

He added that a portion of the US$27.1 million will be open to other universities through a challenge fund to offer the same type of training.

The MasterCard Foundation has invested US$300 million in agriculture-related programmes across Africa, as RUFORUM positions itself to share best practices in Africa. Materu said: “We in the Foundation take agriculture seriously as it has the potential to secure jobs for the young and secure livelihoods for the future.”

This article has been sourced from

Forum commits to producing more agriculture PhDs

Sixty vice-chancellors who constitute the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture, RUFORUM, have committed to train 325 PhD students over the next five years through intra-African academic mobility.

“If we all meet to our commitment to train five students each with our own resources, we will have 375 PhDs by the end of five years,” Professor Mabel Imbuga, RUFORUM board chair and vice-chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, told the conference.

The RUFORUM members met for their 5th biennal conference from 17-21 October at Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Vice-chancellors expressed concern, among other issues, over a decline in supervision of students in the network, low publication rates and the failure of students to graduate on time. The need for a framework was proposed to guide and control the graduate throughput, against the backdrop of some universities failing to provide supervision, accommodation and stipends to students.

Training with impact

Outlining the forum’s recent achievements, Dr Moses Osiru, RUFORUM’s deputy executive secretary, said RUFORUM had facilitated the imparting of practical skills and farm orientation training to over more than 120 masters students and nearly 100 field attachments. Such training would have an impact on over 5,000 smallholder farmers, he said.

Osiru said the network had also facilitated the development of 10 new PhD and four MSc degree programmes.

Operational improvements had seen RUFORUM strengthening its internal information communication systems and the development of a communication strategy. University performance was boosted by tracking collected data.

The University of Cairo, which is the first North African member university, was officially welcomed, along with nine other new member institutions.

In a keynote address, African Union, or AU, Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called for more support for RUFORUM, particularly as the organisation was growing rapidly.

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