The principal objective of the RANCH initiative is to escalate the setting up of a network of linked universities as African anchor universities/African centres of excellence and academic leadership in agricultural higher education and learning. These centres will promote regional specialisation and collective action among participating universities in areas that address specific common regional development challenges, in order to strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver high-quality training and applied research and to meet the demand for skills required for Africa’s development. These transnational partnerships are both strategic and operational; they are aimed at developing initiatives addressing one or more fields of education or training, and promoting innovation and exchange of experience/know-how among universities and different types of organisations involved in education, training or other relevant fields. Anchor universities will have unique strengths and competencies in STI. Anchor and associated universities will bring together their collective capacities and competencies to provide leadership in transforming teaching, research and outreach for greater relevance and the stimulation of agriculture and inclusive, sustainable, rural development serving their countries and the continent alike.
Similar anchors are being developed to promote advancement in STI in order to support agricultural development and attainment of STISA-2024. While some of the regional training programmes have been mainstreamed into host university programmes, others have transitioned into Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) under support from the World Bank. To broaden the scope of and complement existing anchors/ centres of excellence, RUFORUM is developing the Regional Programme for Strengthening Higher Agricultural Education in Africa (SHAEA). Areas of focus will include the regional MSc and PhD training programmes aimed at: (i) building the teaching and research capacity of member universities and the wider national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES); (ii) enhancing capacity for training and research that targets improving food and nutrition security and access to knowledge; and (iii) building capacity in emerging areas of ‘challenge’ in the agricultural development landscape, so that Africa does not lag behind the rest of the world,