By Pauline Atim, Social Media Reporter
In light of her impending retirement from the African Union Chairmanship, Her Excellency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was treated to a dinner by RUFORUM, during the Africa Higher Education Week in Cape Town, South Africa. The dinner was held as a token of appreciation for the support, guidance and advice her office has provided to RUFORUM network.
Amongst the distinguished guests was the RUFORUM Board Chairperson Prof. Mabel Imbuga who appreciated the work her Excellency has done at the African Union Commission (AUC) and her support of RUFORUM to implement the Agenda 2063, which spells of the African dream to develop the capacity of farmers to provide enough food for the continent, thus removing Africa from the paradox.
Dr. Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary for Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in Malawi, also thanked Her Excellency for the bringing of the AUC closer to RUFORUM since 2014 and allowing RUFORUM lead the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) coordination. She, however, mentioned that agricultural technologies that are modern and yet smallholder farmer-friendly are still lacking even though they are still necessary to improve the African economy and meet the SDG’s. She also noted that information packaging for ordinary smallholder farmers is still poor.
Interestingly, the controversial, yet critical topic that has rocked South African universities, ‘Fees Must Fall’, was brought up in conversation during the dinner. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Venda, Prof. Peter Mbati noted that despite the negative media coverage, South African Vice Chancellors have been meeting to discuss the issue not just amongst themselves but also with the Ministry of Education as well as President Zuma. He further stated that despite the challenges, their aim is still to provide quality degrees not just for South Africa but Africa at large. Thus, there is need for more dialogue with all stakeholders involved. He also lastly stated that the partnership with AUC is the biggest for RUFORUM and thanked Prof. Adipala for the great work he has done to build RUFORUM.
Her Excellency Zuma thanked the guests for allowing the African Union Commission to be a part of the RUFORUM family. She noted that RUFORUM is not just about farmers but also about research to improve farmers and the future of Africa. She further noted that innovation and technology are the lifeline of agriculture giving examples of Universities in Russia and Italy that are excelling through innovation and technology. Furthermore, expansion of teaching spaces through technology is greatly needed in order to train young people to solve community problems and innovate around it. Thus it important for Heads of State, Ministers to support RUFORUM and for RUFORUM itself, to support communities. She finished her speech with thanking RUFORUM and indicating that, there is need for innovate ways to cover up the huge gaps if Africa is to achieve Agenda 2063.