Bamako 15 September 2019. The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a network of 114 universities across 38 countries in Africa has, in partnership with the IPR/IFRA, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Ministry of Agriculture and Sasakawa Global, organized a three-day Higher Education Forum in Bamako, Mali to (i) deliberate on advancing Africa’s response to Higher Education disparities and support to disadvantaged students; (ii) mobilize the private sector to take active role and investment in agricultural education and transformation efforts; (iii) take stock of Higher Education and agricultural priorities and development needs of Mali, a post-conflict country; and (iv) foster linkages between the Higher Education sector in Mali and the RUFORUM network of universities. Since 2018, as part of aligning operations for delivery of the Vision 2030 to create a Pan African Network, RUFORUM strategically intensified on advocacy with African Governments to support its initiatives with the member universities in the 38 countries in Africa. To assist Mali in the efforts toward agriculture transformation, excellence in Higher Education and science research, and universities’ competitiveness, a team of eight Vice Chancellors of RUFORUM member universities, RUFORUM governance bodies and other stakeholders visited Mali the week of 9thto 14th September 2019 to engage stakeholders of Higher Education in Mali, policy makers, and private sector representatives to explore areas of partnership, and to lesson learn from Mali and each other. The Mali meeting was also part of the move by RUFORUM to increase its presence in West Africa.
As part of the process, a Higher Education Symposium Day was held on 11th September 2019 to facilitate a national dialogue on status and future of Higher Education, as well as the process of transformation of Science, Technology and Innovation in Mali with participation of Universities and Polytechnic, Policy, and Private Sector players. The meeting was opened by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, with the welcoming remarks by the Mayor of Commune 3, and the RUFORUM Board Chair.
In her welcoming remarks, the Mayor of the “Commune 3”, introduced Mali’s current status as in dire need of increasing agricultural production and productivity through application of Science, technology and innovation, and the thrust to fight against rampant diseases and poverty. She further pointed out the need to provide increased focus and support to vulnerable but academically deserving students. The RUFORUM Board Chair Prof George Kayama-Phiri explained that the recent expansion of RUFORUM across the African continent is in response to the urgent need to advance the transformation of Africa’s Agriculture. He also pointed out that as Africa is endowed with enough resources, there should not be hunger and poverty in the continent; what is needed is sustained commitment and investment effort into Higher Education and research system to defeat hunger and poverty in Africa. “We need to build capacities of Agricultural Scientists, Veterinarians, Microbiologists, Engineers, and Nutritionists”. Finally in his opening speech, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research stressed that Science, Technology and Innovation remain powerful drivers of sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development. He welcomed the Higher Education symposium, as a unique opportunity to interact and discuss at national level, on how best to advance Mali and Africa continent.
A key paper was presented during the engagement in Mali on the Status of Higher Education in Mali with a Gender Perspective. This helped provide opportunity for the audience and the panelists to discuss key issues and solutions for transformation of Malian agriculture through STI, financing scientific research and technology in Mali, increasing the participation of women in Higher Education and scientific research in Mali, participation of private sector actors for development of Science, Technology and Innovation in Mali and participation of disadvantaged but academically deserving students in Higher Education. The RUFORUM delegation led by Prof. George Kanyama-Phiri, the Board Chair congratulated the Government of Mali for the current efforts on strengthening agriculture and promoting Science, Technology and Innovation for economic development in Mali.