Repositioning African Universities for Sustainable Development Goals

Tuaum Gebremariam, a PAUSTI civil engineering student explains his research on translucent concrete using waste materials to Dr. Begashaw (left) Prof. Imbuga (centre) and Prof. Kassa, at the iPIC Centre, JKUAT

Universities in Africa have the onerous task of honing creative and sustainable ideas and innovations to power Africa’s socio-economic transformation, in line with aspirations of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an official has said.

Dr. Belay Begashaw, the Director General for Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa (SDGC-Africa) however warned that the role could only be executed if the institutions repositioned themselves as centres of excellence manned by quality manpower.

Dr. Begashaw said SDGC-Africa had embarked on an ambitious plan to strengthen tertiary education in the continent under the auspices of the Kigali Initiative. Among other things, the initiative adopted in July 2016 aims to mobilize African leaders to invest in higher education, the official said.

According to Dr. Begashaw, key reforms required by universities include modernizing teaching and learning process, promoting transformational leadership, enhancing outreach programmes as well as leverage ICT for research, networking and dissemination of scientific outputs.

The Director was speaking at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology on Monday, February 26, 2018, where he held talks with Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga together with officials from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Pan African University (PAU).

The officials interact with hybrid flying ambulance developed by Pascal Aloo (right), final year mechatronics engineering student at JKUAT

The PAU Rector, Prof. Belay Kassa, said the African Union led continental graduate training Institution was founded to revitalize Africa’s higher education; promote integration and stem brain drain.

Since establishment in 2012, PAU which currently has an enrollment of 1, 100 in the five institutes, has so far produced 414 graduates with masters degrees while 2 have graduated with doctorate degrees.

The PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) which is hosted at JKUAT has staged two graduations. The first was presided over by former Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in November 2014.

PAUSTI offers masters and PhD programmes in electrical engineering, civil engineering, mathematics, molecular biology and biotechnology, mechanical engineering and mechatronic engineering.

Prof. Manabu Tsunoda who made a presentation on behalf of JICA said the Agency was keen to support closer linkages among the PAU institutes towards African innovation.

Tsunoda who is also the Chief Advisor to AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project that supports implementation of PAUSTI, called on the development partners to work together for the realization of Africa’s development aspirations including the sustainable development goals and Africa Agenda 2063.

The officials join a section of PAUSTI students after interacting with select JKUAT/PAUSTI innovations.

On her part, Prof. Imbuga said both JKUAT and PAUSTI were already producing highly qualified personnel besides rolling out applied innovations to support the development of Kenya and Africa at large.

Besides calling for mainstreaming of SDGs in varsity curriculum, the Vice Chancellor urged African universities to establish human resource data bases to facilitate partnerships and collaborations in teaching and research.

The meeting was also attended by Mr. Daisuke Watanabe, Director, Africa Division1, Africa Department, JICA and Prof. Gabriel Magoma, Director PAUSTI, among others.

SDGC-Africa is an autonomous non-profit international organization that aims to provide technical support, neutral advice and expertise to national governments, private sector, civil society, academic institutions to accelerate the implementation of the SDG agenda across Africa.

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