African Universities have the potential to pull the continent out of poverty but only if they transformed their traditional approach to teaching and research, and embrace modern entrepreneurial practices crucial in fostering economic development.
In a public lecturer at JKUAT, Wednesday June 20, 2012, renowned Harvard based Kenyan scholar, Prof. Calestous Juma, was of the view that the challenges facing the continent require universities to be central actors in strengthening global competitiveness of African economies.
“To achieve this, African universities need to adopt new thinking, different from the first generation universities’. The don further told a packed audience of scholars and businessmen that universities in Africa should be ‘entrepreneurial’ and ready ‘to create enterprises’.
The don reiterated that the current millennium was dominated by unprecedented knowledge and technology that required exploitation for economic development. Prof. Juma opined that the current century had equally opened unparalleled opportunities that allowed emerging economies to innovate products and services, currently being exported to developed countries, unlike in the past where the reverse was true. He singled out Kenya’s novel MPESA technology which has generated interest among researches in the west.
According to the scholar, for a university to achieve an entrepreneurial status, it must conform to certain irreducible minima including establishing crucial tripartite partnerships with government, and the private sector. Equally, universities in Africa should provide incentives to their staff for optimal productivity.
“The use of money as a means of improving productivity is no longer tenable”, he advised, adding that research had clearly proved that non monetary rewards such as autonomy were more effective in boosting productivity particularly in intellectual pursuits.
Prof. Juma, is a JKUAT Doctor of Science-Agricultural Biotechnology Honoris Causa alumnus. He serves as Faculty Chair of Innovation for Economic Development executive project and directs the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He holds a doctorate on Science and Technology policy studies and has extensively written on science, technology and environment, winning several international awards for his work on sustainable development.