Starting my Journey with RUFORUM

Joan Apio

Above: Ms. Joan Apio, Founder KAVIBE

When the RUFORUM job adverts were placed in 2008, the opportunity to serve an African led organisation motivated me to apply and work at the RUFORUM Secretariat. I was very nervous. This largely was due to my inexperience in the field of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). I recall vividly when asked by the panel why I should be given an opportunity to work with RUFORUM, I responded “I will do what it takes”. I am a hands-on person and fascinated by technology and the opportunities it brings so I figured, it cannot be that difficult. Surely for a Network of then 29 member universities and then a lean Secretariat, I would somewhat make my contribution.

In October, 2008, I received a call confirming my appointment at the RUFORUM Secretariat. I was excited and promised myself I will do my very best not to let down the institution. At that time, I was still working as an administrator at a small business company in Kampala. Having served for nearly 3 years, I felt it right to discuss this new opportunity with my then boss. He looked at my contract and offered me some guidance. It is then that I leant the importance of creating strong professional linkages and “not burning bridges” as one progresses in life.

I started my journey at the RUFORUM Secretariat as the ICT program Officer. An opportunity I would later be grateful for in the years to come. As I was limited in IT skills, my determination and willingness to learn coupled with mentorship from Ms. Nodumo Dhlamini, former ICT Manager at RUFORUM Secretariat revealed that it is possible to learn anything when one is determined. I did a lot of self-reading and learning to ensure I delivered on the Job. I believe when Prof. Adipala Ekwamu, Executive Secretary gave me this opportunity, he saw something greater in me that I had not seen at the time – potential growth!

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Thought Pieces RUFORUMAfrica has been described by Mckinsey, as ‘Lions on the move’ to describe the growth in the consumer sector in many of its countries and its tremendous potential. Much has been achieved, as indicated by the remarkable economic growth indexes, albeit from a low starting point. The Continent however, continues to lag behind in several development indices, including rampant hunger and poverty in several parts of the continent. There is need to enhance its development trajectory and improve the livelihoods of its people if the aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063 and indeed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2030) are to be met.

Various options are being explored by African governments and their partners, local and international. Agriculture, employing on average 70-80% of the population, is seen as key to support the needed inclusive growth that would stimulate economic development. Africa must also harness its demographic dividend (Africa has the youngest population in the World, over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, and set to double by 2045) and invest in a science-led development path supported by a skilled private and public workforce.

Fortunately, Africa can build on lessons from especially the Green revolution that was used to transform agrarian economies in Asia and Latin America into leading economies today. There are also lessons from Malaysia, Korea, Japan and other countries where deliberate investment in strengthening their science capacity and human capital development have led to major economic advancement in these countries. The large and increasing talent pool at African universities are an important resource in this effort. This publication seeks to explore the possible role of Universities in the process of supporting transformation of agricultural sector and contributing to inclusive economic growth in Africa. How could African universities contribute to attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063- The Africa We Want? What would be the necessary transformation within the universities themselves to make this happen? And what role could networking approaches play to support university evolution and transformation towards these goals? These are some of the issues that African leaders and institutions and their partners need to reflect on. Indeed they are some of the underlining issues that RUFORUM, a network of 85 African Universities in 35 African countries is grappling with, as it works to enhance the contribution of African universities to the continental development agenda, especially the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Agenda (CAADP) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024).

This volume is a collection of invited Thought pieces from various individuals to share their perspectives on some of the issues they see as important for moving Africa forward. The contributions were invited as part of stimulating dialogue on topical issues that the RUFORUM Network and other actors need to consider especially in terms of transforming the agricultural sector in Africa. The articles were to inform the RUFORUM Annual General Meeting of 23-27 October 2017 in Lilongwe, Malawi, and also served to inform the development of the RUFORUM Vision 2030 Strategy. The articles are presented in the order they were received and published, but overall the majority highlight the urgency to strengthen youth engagement in agriculture through agribusiness, needed actions to transform African agriculture sector and the need to galvanize African universities to support the broader continental development agenda. Click here to download the RUFORUM thought Pieces.


Dr. Florence Nakayiwa

Above: Dr. Florence Nakayiwa

Recent developments have brought higher education and especially university education back to the fore. The realization that no county can develop without investment in higher education has increased focus on the expectations against a backdrop of historical funding and quality challenges. The resurgence of focus for higher education has manifested in the change in the funding and continued engagement between the higher education sector and other national development initiatives. Several key thrusts stand out to support this argument.  Development partners notably, bilateral, multilateral and the American Foundations have contributed to the changed agenda for revamping of the higher education sector in Africa.  While the initial support targeted individual universities, a new model that has traction has emerged.  The support has propped up partnerships and networks that create synergy for the African University.

Agencies such as the RUFORUM, the AAU and Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa are good examples. These regional bodies have not only acted as sub agencies to offer small research grants, that have made significant impact on research capacities and output from the university, but have also strengthened the link between the university and the communities. They have further defined the role of the university and its interface with the national development agendas as well as the regional aspirations of the Africa We Want that is espoused by Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The typology of partnerships and regional networks to support higher education in Africa has manifested at different levels. From the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa [PHEA], that was a commitment from American Foundations to develop higher education in Africa, to the Sida/Sweden collaborative research programme that promoted internationalization and networks between African Universities and Universities in Sweden.  Similar networks exist under Norwegian government [NORAD] and Netherlands [NUFFIC] support to Universities. These have played a key role in research capacity and staff development at the graduate, masters, doctoral and post-doctoral levels.  There was however, limited interaction among African Universities with a few exceptions around specific academic programmes.  Scholars such as Manuel Castells recognizing the dearth of higher education networks in Africa have noted that African universities  have to get together in order to get the critical mass that will enable the continent get its bearing and  anchor in the knowledge economy that is driving the social and economic development at the global level.

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