Written by: Richard A. Powell – RUFORUM Communications Consultant
Following a week of intensive networking opportunities that attracted nearly 670 participants from 45 countries, and celebrating the achievements of postgraduate agricultural students across Africa, the fourth highly successful RUFORUM biennial conference ended last week in Maputo, Mozambique.
Conferences have a reputation among many who plough their circuit for being exercises in talking, with minimal practical positive outcomes to show after the deliberations have been concluded. But this meeting could have been a game-changer for RUFORUM specifically and agriculture generally on the continent.
“After 10 successful years influencing higher agricultural education in specific regions of Africa,” announced Professor Adipala Ekwamu, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM at the launch of the official conference communiqué, “we now have a wonderful opportunity to not only influence its future direction strategically but also across the continent as a whole.”
The conference welcomed multiple honoured guests and speakers, including H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Mrs Graca Machel, Member of the International Panel of Elders and Former Minister of Education, Mozambique, two AU Commissioners, ten Ministers, 34 Vice Chancellors, and university Principals and Deans.
“The seniority of those attending the meeting,” Professor Ekwamu noted, “is testimony to not only how far RUFORUM has progressed over the last decade but how it is now seen as a critical partner in the advancement of agriculture on the continent.”
Key developments arising from the conference included: an offer by the AU Commission Chairperson to host a special session for African Heads of State and Government focused on higher education, science, technology and innovation; the official mandating of RUFORUM by the AU Commission to facilitate and coordinate higher education in agriculture in Africa and as a key implementing agency for the recently adopted Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa -2024; and the recommended transformation of RUFORUM into a continental organisation.
It was also the first occasion that the meeting has been supported by dedicated social media coverage, with a team of 12 students from across Africa producing 45 blogs to over 9,800 blog visitors, and 501 Twitter postings to reach over 45,000 people.
As one of the eager students remarked at the conclusion of the conference, carrying an armful of conference paperwork, “We were all life and souls of this party! I can’t wait for the next one!”