RUFORUM recognizes the need for greater youth participation in enterprise development and business incubation and through its member universities and partners has supported training and skills development in this respect. It has also supported start-ups through innovative financing mechanism of the revolving fund implemented in some member universities.
RUFORUM believes in youth entrepreneurship as the game changer in ensuring greater youth participation and integration into the economic growth at national and regional levels and for youth employment. In this brief, a summary description of four Young Entrepreneurs and Innovators from Benin that emerged among the Top 139 from the 756 submissions to the competition is profiled. A profile of the overall 15 winners, including one from Benin, from the 756 submissions to the competition is profiled. We bring you a new publication focusing on the top four Innovators and Entrepreneurs from Rwanda. Click here to download the publication.
A profile of the overall 15 winners from the 756 submissions is available at the following link: https://blog.ruforum.org.
Eric Etchikinto Agoyi from Benin is a PhD student of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology at Makerere University, Uganda. The PhD in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology is one of the postgraduate programmes piloted by the RUFORUM Network. Eric’s PhD scholarship is under the EU supported Intra-ACP SHARE s project. His nascent PhD research protocol focusing on “Genetic study of promiscuous nodulation in soybean” won him the 2015 Norman Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Programme (LEAP) fellowship. The fellowship was awarded to him for his PhD research, targeting genetic and environmental factors involved in promiscuous nodulation in soybean. Through this fellowship, Eric will be mentored by Prof. Brian Diers, Associate Head of Crop Sciences Department of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a seasoned Soybean Breeder. He will also be working with Dr. Hesham Agrama of the International Institute of Topical Agriculture (IITA) Zambia, another well experienced Soybean Breeder. Through their mentorship and opportunity as well as exposure to vanguard laboratory facilities, Eric will conduct part of his research work at the University of Illinois. He will gain expertise in soybean breeding, conducting and supervising research, that he hopes he will use to invest in food security and capacity building in his home country Benin.
This career path and growth would not have been possible without the academic mobility opportunity which is increasingly becoming important among and between universities in Africa. At Makerere University, Eric has opportunity to interact and learn together with colleagues from several other African countries including, among others, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. That great opportunity has also enabled Eric to participate in many trainings and workshops to acquire diverse additional skills, including teaching skills, scholarly writing, research approach and proposal writing. Eric has also participated in training courses on modern concepts in plant breeding and biotechnology from USA (Cornell University and University of Arizona) and the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU). Eric hopes to build upon these exposures and networks to engage in collaborative breeding programmes, knowledge sharing and dissemination of research findings that will benefit Africa and his home country Benin.
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Science, technology and innovation is critical for responding to the challenges of African agriculture and to elevate its performance and contribution towards economic development and poverty alleviation. Universities have a key role to play in producing the next generation of the African workforce, including researchers/scientists, extension and advisory service practitioners, input dealers and other development practitioners that are expected to generate, translate, extend and share knowledge with rural farmers to increase agricultural productivity, agribusiness and incomes. Trained human resources in a wide range of topics, aligned to the Science Agenda for African Agriculture, are central to stimulating science-based technology innovation. Research has shown the returns to investment in higher education are around 20%, and in Africa closer to 30% (Borland et al., 2000; Montenegro and Patrinos, 2013; USAID, 2014). These are higher returns to investments than in both secondary and primary education.
Although higher education enrolment and graduation rates have increased considerably gross enrolment ratios remain low, with only 6% of Africans enrolled in universities (Bloom et al., 2006) compared to 40% in Latin America and 94% in North America. Moreover, the increase has come at the expense of quality with expenditure per student falling significantly. There is thus an urgent need to invest in higher education and for higher education to transform itself to produce the quality of graduates and knowledge needed to achieve the African Unions Agenda 2063.
At a prominent meeting of African Union (AU) officials and higher education actors from across the continent, held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, between 23-24 November, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) announced a landmark operational move to Western Africa.
As part of a consultation exercise with Deans and Principals of African Schools and Faculties of Agriculture and related Sciences, the announcement heralded the development of the organisation’s new five-year strategic business plan for 2016-2020. The decision to expand its operational coverage from traditionally Eastern, Central and Southern Africa was reached following ground-breaking recommendations from RUFORUM’s biennial conference held in Maputo, Mozambique, in July this year and by the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the AU Commission.
Having recently extended its research and training linkages to several countries in Western Africa, RUFORUM will now focus more closely on three anchor countries – Benin, Ghana and Nigeria – as part of a phased growth plan that has seen its higher education network increase from 10 universities in five African countries in 2004, to 46 universities in 22 nations, with the additionally announced admission of: University of Pretoria, South Africa; Nelson Mandela Institute of Science & Technology, Tanzania; University d’Abomey Calavi, Benin; University of Cape Coast, Ghana; and the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Commenting after the announcement, Professor Adipala Ekwamu, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, remarked: “This landmark decision by RUFORUM is a great day for agriculture in Western Africa. It augments RUFORUM’s role as the voice of higher agricultural education across the continent, as part of a phased organisational expansion that builds upon our existing shared institutional experiences and extends our collective footprint.” Download full press release