Building higher level skills to drive development in Africa: The case of the RUFORUM Doctoral Regional Training Programmes

Africa still lacks the required human capacity to respond to critical development challenges. Skills are inadequate in many areas from primary to tertiary level, and vocational training. There is need to develop high-level skills, institutional capacities, critical technical skills, and resources in key investment areas. The current situation is a major constraint to the implementation of development programmes and continental frameworks hence the foreseen delayed emergence of African counties as knowledge economies. Progress has so far been made by several regional stakeholders to identify the key critical soft and hard skills that are necessary to drive the Africa Agenda 2063. With this, educational institutions being the main actors in the skills, competencies and technological development value chains, are expected to transform and realign their interventions to develop the high-level skills needed to deliver Africa Agenda 2063. The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) responded by commissioning an institutional and competence analysis of its then 10 member universities to document strengths and weaknesses, status of facilities, human resources/expertise and experiences to map out the niche areas as well as institutional comparative strengths and weaknesses. Other studies also identified skills and competence gaps in students graduating from African universities. A key outcome of this process was the adoption of strong course-based doctoral training that involved engagement with other leading experts in and outside Africa in the training. In 2008, RUFORUM launched the courseworkbased doctoral regional training programmes, and has since supported the establishment of seven such programmes, namely Agricultural Rural Innovations, Food Science and Nutrition, Soil and Water Management, Aquaculture and Fisheries, Agricultural Resource Economics, Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, and Dryland Resource Management. As part of building institutional capacity and recognizing excellence, some of programmes have become part of the African Higher Education Centres of Excellence. These include: African Centre of Excellence in Agro-ecology and Livelihood Systems (ACALISE) at Uganda Martyrs University in Uganda; Africa Center of Excellence for Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation at Haramaya University in Ethiopia; African Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management at Egerton University in Kenya; Africa Centre of Excellence in Aquaculture and Fisheries Science at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi; and Makerere Regional Center for Crop Improvement at Makerere University in Uganda. These programmes have supported training of over 420 doctoral students in Africa who are now contributing to the development of the African continent in different capacities in the agricultural sector and leadership positions. These programmes remain relevant today and are inspiring the development of other regional training programmes to fill the required skills and knowledge gaps in the continent.
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Region Focus: 
Africa Wide
RUFORUM Working document series
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Open Access
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