The Case for higher education in Africa – A lot remains to be done


Victoria Mbigidde, Catherine Mloza 

Economists say that land, labor and capital are the key factors for production without which a farmer, small or large cannot do without. This is true and by far undisputed. However, over the past two decades, it is increasingly becoming apparent that knowledge is also a critical factor that can determine or affect in some way, agricultural productivity.

For arguments’ sake, as an example, let us consider a woman in a rural community in Africa, who cultivates maize on 1 acre of her family land. Her area is frequently hit by drought which causes her and others in her village to re-plant 2 to 3 times in a cropping season. In addition, maize does not do too well on the market. Her children, who are her major source of labor have all grown up and some migrated to the city, leaving her and her ill husband, more or less on their own. How does this woman diversify her farming in such a way that it becomes more profitable on the market and more resilient to a changing climate? In addition, what should she do to increase her productivity per unit area in spite of the labor reduction she has experienced? Can she grow crops that are more nutritious to feed her ill husband?

These are the challenges facing typical Africans in the rural masses. All these challenges can be met simply by imparting knowledge to those that are desperately seeking it. This is the reason there is critical need to invest in a skilled personnel that could impart knowledge and develop innovative technologies and solutions for Africa. This is the common view that made its rounds among the different speeches from high profile persons who graced the RUFORUM@10 opening ceremony in Maputo.

“Poverty is not a profitable project so Africa has no reason managing it” said one of the keynote speakers, Hon. Dr Adesina Akinwumi, Minister of Agriculture for Nigeria.

“Human resource is the greatest resource Africa boasts of and if we train and equip our graduates with the right skills, then we can reach our full potential and eradicate poverty rather than reducing it.” Her Excellency Graca Machel.

Indeed the need for more investment towards agriculture and higher education cannot be more emphasized. Africa needs to solve its own problems by funding its own projects and training its own people that can creatively develop solutions for Africa. This point was highly emphasized by Madam Grace Machel who admonished universities to make tangibly tailor their training plans to the demand and reality on the ground.

“Africa needs to make strides toward funding our own budgets. Your granary will never be filled by your neighbors. There is need to exploit the available resources and learning to take responsibility for own actions will take us a long way and take Africa to a higher level. What we believe is good is not good enough and so there is room to do much more and be accountable to ourselves”.

As the RUFORUM@10 celebrations continue in Maputo, it is critical that participants reflect on how African higher education institutions can become self sustaining. In addition, how universities can train students for impact in line with policy and demand at national, regional and continental level for far reaching effects.

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