Wednesday, 9 May 2012

AFRICA: Science, agriculture to be boosted - ministers

African ministers have recommended reforms of higher education across the continent including the creation of more conducive environments for female students and partnerships between governments and universities to provide policy support and build capacity in the areas of agriculture and science, which should be better resourced.

Reform recommendations were made at a Ministerial Conference on Higher Education in Agriculture in Africa. The event was held in the Ugandan capital Kampala from 15-19 November, hosted by the Ugandan government and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building and attended by ministers of higher education, agriculture and science.

communiqué signed by ministers from 12 countries - Burundi, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Niger, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe - said the conference was aimed at strengthening high-level partnerships and policy support for re-engineering African higher education in agriculture and science.

The ministers said the initiative by African heads of state to implement the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which seeks 6% a year growth in agricultural production to reduce hunger and poverty on the continent, could only succeed if the critical shortage of human capacity was addressed and agricultural education and research was adequately resourced.

The ministers added that governments must provide incentives for harnessing the African Diaspora's skills, institutional resources and professional and business networks in order to contribute toward Africa's development.

One resolution was for ministries responsible for education, with the support of universities, "to undertake national human resource and capacity needs audits to underpin the design, financing and implementation of national human capacity development".

Governments and universities, the ministers agreed, need to develop functional partnerships through which to provide policy support and tackle capacity needs.

African universities should undertake reforms that would enable them to respond to future demands, and governments should "enable and facilitate universities to become learning institutions that produce problem-solvers and entrepreneurs".

The resolutions said African higher education institutions should establish "foresights and think nodes" aligned with the Pan-African University - a continental institution that is being established through research centres at based at universities in five regions - and other African centres of excellence in science, research and teaching.

"Amongst their outputs will be analyses of African issues that will cross-fertilise with the studies of the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) Virtual Foresight Academy, which is intended to improve prioritisation of research for development," said the communiqué.

"These initiatives will take advantage of the GFAR's Forward Thinking Initiative, which is a neutral and independent platform for developers of different foresight tools and initiatives."

On the promotion of women, the ministers agreed that higher education ministries and institutions should create and strengthen frameworks for gender mainstreaming at national and institutional levels through development and review of gender policies accompanied by effective strategies, monitoring and accountability systems and adequate resources.

They added that there was a need for ministries and universities to create awareness among families and communities that girls should be motivated to study science at school and pursue agricultural careers.

They said governments and developmental partners should ensure adequate financial support for universities for effective teaching, learning and research in order to increase enrolments and address weak human and institutional capacity in central and west Africa.

The ministers also passed a resolution on harnessing opportunities and developments in information and communication technologies, including that universities should engage with the private sector to harness ICTs in teaching, learning and research.

Will la francophonie allow this to be done? Will the needs of home countries be taken seriously instead of banking overseas and importing unnecessary things? 

This is what happened to Nigeria, by slavery abiding with France to refuse Nigerian education and agriculture production. Otherwise Nigeria would today be in competition with the US and China. When I saw the PM of Japan weep while he spoke about the fall of the Nigerian economy and how Japan was the first country to invite Nigerian president to the G8, you could understand that Nigeria should have nothing to do with this "Franco-Ecowas".

Ms Joyce IROKA

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