Bidco Africa and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have entered into a partnership agreement that will see the two organizations collaborate on strategic fronts including agricultural research, innovation, technology transfer, entrepreneurship and the general improvement of agriculture and food security in the country.
Speaking on Monday, 25th January, 2021, during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organizations, JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, underpinned the invaluable significance of the partnership, reaffirming her belief that universities should not just be ivory towers, but rather, develop a close synergy with industry players and communities in order to achieve sustainable development and progress.
“The role of academia-industry linkage in promoting an innovation ecosystem that can spur socio-economic development cannot be gainsaid. Through this partnership, JKUAT and Bidco Africa have an opportunity to enhance the role of industry-academia in safeguarding livelihoods and growing the economy,” she said.
Prof. Ngumi further expressed her confidence that through the partnership with Bidco, a key player in agribusiness and product development, JKUAT researchers, innovators, students, and faculty will greatly benefit, through training and attachment, joint research ventures, exchange and dissemination of information, capacity building, innovations, technology development and technology transfer, commercialization and marketing of products and services.
A report by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) launched in 2018 on Skills Mismatch estimated that about 66 percent of the university graduates are not prepared for work and that potential employers are shifting to look for dynamic skills in the graduates they onboard.
While affirming that JKUAT students are holistically trained and industry-ready, the Vice Chancellor expressed confidence that the Bidco-JKUAT partnership, will significantly benefit students not just in regards to more practical training and their entry into the corporate world, but also boost their entrepreneurial mindset towards self-employment.
On his part, Bidco Africa Group Director, Chris Diaz, lauded the partnership with the University as a timely move, coming at a time when food security is a critical issue not just for the country but the entire region, and at a time when Kenya’s unemployment rate is at a high of about 9.3 percent, with approximately 55 percent of the youth unemployed.
“Through this partnership, we shall witness more development in the agricultural sector as we tap into the research and innovation strength of the University to improve what Bidco is doing in terms of mechanization, automation of agriculture, and even the use of robotics,” Mr Diaz said.
“With such a collaboration featuring a University which is a leader in agricultural training and technology transfer, and the over 35,000 farmers we work with, I believe we will reaffirm our belief that Kenya has the potential to feed itself and still have enough to export to the rest of the world,” he added.
Mr. Diaz, who also chairs the Private Sector East Africa Board, and a member of the East Africa Council, made a commitment to brokering further partnerships between the University and other large and medium corporates in the private sector, to ensure the University attains its potential of impacting sustainable development in the continent.
“Through this collaboration, I also believe that Bidco Africa and JKUAT will make a significant contribution in the rollout of the Africa Continental Trade Agreement (ACTA) by boosting entrepreneurship uptake in the region, and preparing the leaders not just of tomorrow, but of today as well, who will be at the forefront of overseeing this progressive initiative,” added Mr. Diaz.
Under the partnership, Bidco, which is one of the leading manufacturers in East Africa, will provide research platforms, provide linkages and point out opportunities available in the private sector for capacity building and technology development and transfer.
On the other hand, JKUAT will tap into her innovation and research expertise to offer guidance to Bidco Africa, as it seeks to expand some of its flagship initiatives in terms of agricultural research, adoption of new technologies, food fortification, and their work with Soya and Sunflower farmers across the region.
With Bidco boasting robust entrepreneurship programmes and women leadership initiatives, JKUAT students and graduates are also set to benefit from the collaboration through internship opportunities, graduate trainee programmes and leadership opportunities.
The MoU signing ceremony was also graced by the DVC Academic Affairs Prof. Robert Kinyua, DVC Administration Prof. Bernard Ikua, DVC Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, among others.