Enhancing regional collaboration among RUFORUM member universities through staff exchanges

As part of its efforts to strengthen regional collaboration and integration among universities in Africa, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) facilitated three staff exchanges from Eastern, Western and Central Africa to Makerere University in Uganda. RUFORUM, a consortium of 66 universities operating in 26 African countries sees staff exchanges as an opportunity for its members to share human and infrastructural capacity in order to build strong faculty to support teaching and collaborative research in African universities.

Most Universities in Sub Saharan Africa are characterised by limited regional and international collaborative activities required to boost and conduct cutting edge research, quality teaching, and resource mobilization in support of post graduate programs. The 2017 IFPRI ASTI Synthesis report confirms that university research and teaching collaboration within the region have remained extremely low in the recent past. Additionally, there is limited staff capacity to handle heavy workload from the ever increasing student numbers coupled with limited expertise in many fields. The situation is further aggravated by lack of funding to support staff exchanges yet recent studies show that regional and international collaboration play a significant role in the ranking of universities and improving the quality of their programmes.

To this end, RUFORUM is promoting staff exchanges to build highly competitive faculty that is critical for ensuring quality academic programmes and research outputs. During the second quarter of the year, with support from the Carnegie Cooperation of New York, three staff from different universities namely; University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin – West Africa), University of Gezira (Sudan- Eastern Africa), University of Buea (Cameroon – Central Africa) visited Makerere University in Uganda to explore areas of collaboration, write joint proposals responding to the European Union Intra-African Academic Mobility and also deliver seminars in their areas of specialisation to the university staff and students.

Below are the biodata of the staff and highlights of their experiences during the staff exchanges

Prof. Achille Ephrem Assogbajo, University of Abomey Calavi, Benin

Prof. Assogbadjo is an agronomist and forester by training, with a special interest in non-timber forest products. He obtained his PhD in Applied Biological Sciences and has extensive experience in population genetics, ethnobotany, conservation and domestication of forest genetic resources used by indigenous people.

In April this year, I participated in a staff exchange visit to Makerere University in Uganda, facilitated by RUFORUM. During the exchange, I gave two seminars to staff and students of the university. The first seminar titled, Scientific research and policy for the National Development Action Plan: world status and case study of Benin” was given to a group of about 40 bachelor’s and master’s students and highlighted the relevance and contribution of African universities to national development. The second seminar on Country level study on the status of the higher agricultural education sector in Benin was given to the administrative staff of the Veterinary School. This second seminar generated a lot of interest and deep discussions especially on how the lessons from Benin could be used to improve education systems in Africa. What I enjoyed most during the staff exchange was the positive ways in which issues were discussed and the open knowledge sharing with colleagues. Our comfortable accommodation and the warm welcome from colleagues made our stay even more enjoyable, and I am very grateful.

Prof. Emmanuel Tanyimbu, University of Buea, Cameroon

Professor Emmanuel Tanyi is the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology at the University of Buea in Cameroon. For thirty years, he has been active in engineering training in Cameroon and has made significant contributions to shaping engineering education in the Cameroonian higher education system.

I participated in a staff exchange programme at Makerere University, from 20th to 27th April 2017. The short visit was memorable for its intensity of activities and exchanges with professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. The highlight of my stay was a lecture I gave at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering on “Renewable energy for rural electrification: case studies from Cameroon”. During the lecture, I presented nine case studies from my research work which included: design, configuration and installation of a community solar system; biomass electricity generation based on empty palm fruit bunches and residues; and capacity building for renewable energy. The lecture generated interesting and wide ranging discussions and I realized that many researchers in Makerere were grappling with the design and deployment of renewable energy systems for rural electrification. I hope that my lecture gave them an opportunity to leverage my experience and expertise in this domain in their current research activities. Read more about Prof. Tanyi’s experience.

Prof. Adil Deifalla University of Gezira, Sudan

Prof. Adil Deifalla is the current Dean of Graduate Studies and Scientific Research at University of Gezira

As part of the RUFORUM organized staff exchange programme I was honoured to be given the opportunity to visit the College of Veterinary Sciences, Animal Resources and Bio- security (COVAB) of Makerere University. While at COVAB, I gave a presentation on the Development and challenges facing higher education in Sudan”.  Sharing the Sudan experience was an experience in itself and, to my surprise, most of the pressing challenges are similar to those faced by other African universities. This calls for a wider discussion among universities to share their experiences and develop common solutions.

The visit was very exciting and the experience, priceless. I received a very warm welcome by my colleagues in COVAB. At least now we know each other and can communicate directly with one another. My sincere thanks and appreciation go to the Principal, Deputy Principal and the staff members of the College.


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