Arab-African Partnership for Implementation of the Africa’s Universities Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI)
The Agenda’s action plan provides a more integrated and inclusive Africa that uses its natural resources, human capital and institutions to drive technological, social and business innovation for development. It proposes to leapfrog the conventional approaches in ways that ensure rapid, sustainable growth, reduce out-migration and improve quality of life. Highly-skilled human resources are essential to develop and deploy new technologies to meet the Agenda’s goals and aspirations. This is also envisioned in the United Nations 2030 Agenda on sustainable development, notably Goals 4 on “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and Goal 10 to “Reduce inequality within and among countries”. The success of any initiatives to contribute to Africa’s response to regional and global agendas will depend on synergy between and among partners and stakeholders operating in the African region.
Afro-Arab partnership in development processes has had a historical interaction and mutual support and benefit for the two regions. During the 28th League of Arab States Summit H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission Chairperson, acknowledged the Africa-Arab collaboration as Africa’s oldest strategic partnership with the outside world and highlighted the need to cultivate the common experience between these two regions towards a promising future. Similarly, the Arab/Africa Economic Forum in 2013 “Beyond Promises: Moving forward towards an effective Arab/Africa Partnership” resolved for common horizons of investment cooperation between Arab and African countries with education being one of the priorities.
Recognising the untapped potential of returns to investment in higher education and challenges that Africa’s tertiary education sector faces, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Development in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a network of 114 members from 38 African countries in North, South, West, Central and Eastern Africa developed a higher education development agenda “the African Universities Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI)”. This agenda seeks to realise vibrant transformative universities that catalyse sustainable inclusive agricultural development to feed and create prosperity for Africa.
AHESTI is developed with awareness of Africa’s lagging behind in high-level skills, technologies and innovations, and the need to do more differently, to ensure that Africa’s young population and institutions are empowered to develop new knowledge and innovations for societal and economic transformation. This is most important in agriculture and other primary sectors which are providing food, employing larger proportion of the population and providing the largest export and foreign exchange earnings for the continent. RUFORUM also notes and recognises that Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET), Higher Education Science and Technology (HEST), and Research and Development (R&D) institutions play a critical role in developing the right quality of human resources, new knowledge, as well as technologies and innovations required to transform the continent’s economy and improve service delivery.
However, the tertiary education sector in Africa still faces critical challenges. The expanded higher education sector has generated many graduates, yet the notion of graduate unemployment and the lack of appropriate skills persists in most African countries. Moreover, with an ever increasing population expected to reach 2 billion by 2050, there is urgent need to explore alternatives to exploit the potential that this energetic labour presents for the development of the continent. At the same time, there is need to harness available opportunities for the benefit of the youth to improve productivity and livelihoods. For agriculture, the need to move beyond farm production to added value and exploration of service provision across the commodity value chain is paramount. Higher education is a catchment area for the youth who are at the start of their adult life and open to ideas and practices that will be instrumental throughout their lifespan. The expansion of curriculum to incorporate entrepreneurship, financial inclusion and other soft skills is a fundamental attribute to harness this potential. The need to build human resource capacity to reorient academic staff to appreciate the changing paradigm for higher agricultural education is a key component for the RUFORUM Vision 2030 and AHESTI.
The Consultative Forum
Convened by Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development (AOAD) in collaboration with the Arab Bank for Economic Development and RUFORUM, the Consultative Forum is designed to provide a platform for dialogue between the African tertiary education sector (TVET, HEST, R&D) and the global and African development partners to chart a way forward for supporting the implementation of Africa’ Universities Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI). The AHESTI aims at catalyzing engagement of Africa’s universities to support rural transformation in the continent and universities contribution towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063. The Consultative Forum will build on the ongoing initiatives for strengthening higher agricultural education in Africa (SHAEA), business incubation and enterprise creation in RUFORUM member universities. It is proposed to engage global and African partners to explore alternative pathways for inclusive agricultural growth and how to promote agri-entrepreneurship and value addition within the higher agricultural education sector. The Forum will deliberate within the context of youth as active participants in both higher education and the agricultural value chain since, several of Africa’s youth originate from small holder farms where technologies would boost production and productivity to create upstream employment for graduates and out of school youth.
The high level Consultative Forum is building on the meeting held in Morocco in March 2019 where several partners including the Mastercard Foundation, OCP, AODB and Arab Bank for Economic Development (BADEA) participated. The Kampala meeting is intended to explore how the different partners could advance the discussion and partnership to promote the interface between higher agricultural education and the business prospects in agriculture. The meeting is expected to bring together partners that focus on human capital development, agricultural research and entrepreneurship. These among others will include the African Development Bank (AfDB), AOAD, BADEA, Mastercard Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, OCP Group and others still to be brought on board.
The Consultative Forum will benefit from areas of synergy to support the implementation of African Universities’ Agenda for Agricultural Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI) and the solutions to the youth employment challenge and poverty reduction. A special focus will be given to laying a framework for the Strengthening Africa's Science, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Capacity for Economic Development (SASTIE); Strengthening use of digital technology for learning and sharing in African universities and ideas in the agro-digital space (Afri-DAP), Accelerating Youth Innovativeness, Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion for Africa’s Development (AYIF-Africa) and a possible initiative to Strengthen Staff capacities in African Universities and increasing the pool of women scientists in Africa. The Forum will deliberate on the initial target countries for implementation of SASTIE. The Partners will consider areas of synergy for successful implementation of aspirations and goals set out under the initiative. The Forum will receive statement in line with the Partners agenda for Africa’s development and the proposed initiatives. Specifically, the African Development Bank’s capacity building and scholarship program at all levels of education; the Strategy of OCP Group for Africa’s higher agricultural education, science and technology for development; the regional human capacity building and entrepreneurship in Africa by BADEA, the Young Africa Works from the Mastercard Foundation and the global agricultural development programme of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The overall objective of the Consultative forum is to facilitate dialogue amongst Development Partners who are closely involved or have interest in supporting human capital development, agricultural research and innovation, and entrepreneurship under the Africa’s Universities Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovations for Africa’s rural and economic transformation. The specific objectives of the Forum are;
- To provide a platform for open sharing of experiences, lessons and ideas on the emerging landscape related to human capital development in agriculture, science and technology and entrepreneurship in Africa;
- Propose areas of synergy, implementation and coordination mechanism for delivery of the AHESTI;
- Develop an investment plan for strengthening staff capacities in African Universities for agri-preneurship and Increasing the pool of Women Scientists in Africa through the RUFORUM platform;
- Hold specific discussion on strengthening the use of Digital Technology for learning and lesson sharing across African Universities, as well as share innovations in the Agro-Digital space; and
- Address the "what next" to underscore the need for practical actions for implementing AHESTI.
The Consultative forum will be held in Kampala, Uganda. It will be hosted by BADEA, AOAD and RUFORUM with participation from selected Uganda Government Ministries and Partners with interest in high level skills development, science, technology and innovation in Africa and Arab countries. The meeting will be informed by key presentations on the status of Afro-Arab agriculture, science, technology and innovation capacity and its implications for future actions. Opportunity will be provided for partners including the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to share their current and previous activities relevant to the meeting and also to highlight key perspectives for moving the discussion forward. A facilitated discussion will be held by partners to identify areas of synergy and how future actions could be better coordinated to achieve aspirations set out in strategies under discussion.
- Partners successfully utilise the Consultative Forum, as a strategic and collaborative platform for sharing of experiences, lessons and ideas on human capital development in agriculture, entrepreneurship, science and technology in Africa;
- A joint understanding and prioritisation of synergies relevant for the successful implementation and delivery of AHESTI;
- Develop strategies for the use of Digital Technology for learning and lesson sharing across Africa and share ideas on what’s working in the Agro-Digital space;
- An investment plan for strengthening staff capacities in African Universities for agri-entrepreneurship through the RUFORUM platform, and
- Jointly advance strategies for undertaking practical actions in support of Africa’s AHESTI for the promotion of youth employment and engagement amongst and with the partners engaged.