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VC challenges universities to deal with African challenges

November 2, 2017   Our Reporter

Vice Chancellor for the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), Professor Address Malata, has challenged African universities to help in addressing challenges facing the continent.

Professor Malata was speaking on October 27, 2017 in Lilongwe when she addressed the business meeting of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (Ruforum) on behalf of University of Malawi, Mzuzu University, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources and MUST, which were the conveners of this year’s Ruforum Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Gathered this morning are Vice Chancellors, Principals, and Deans from over 150 universities in Africa. When I reflect on the many social challenges our people in Africa are currently facing, against the background that we are so many universities in the continent, I wonder whether Africa should still continue to face many social challenges such as poverty, hunger and diseases that affect both the people and their livestock. I am saying this because I am mindful that universities have an important role to play in improving people’s living standards,” said Professor Malata.

She described universities as “knowledge factories”, saying scholars in the late 1990s had argued that “knowledge has replaced natural resources and labour intensive industry as the primary source of wealth creation and economic growth”.

“Megan O’Connell, writing in the Conversation, August 21, 2016 edition, stated that ‘universities historically exist as institutions for the creation and dispersion of knowledge’,” she added.

The MUST Vice Chancellor said people now agree that knowledge is indispensable, especially when it comes to the socio-economic development of the African continent.

“And knowledge creation is our business as universities. But why are we not overcoming these social challenges? Perhaps the knowledge we generate in our universities do not reach the tables of policy makers so that it can make a difference to our people on the continent. Or it could also be the case that as universities we are working in silos and not sharing adequately the ‘breakthrough’ inventions happening in our universities.

“This is where perhaps Ruforum becomes relevant to all of us. The aim of Ruforum is to bring us together, academics within the continent and beyond, to share relevant knowledge that can help to improve the living standards of our people in Africa. Ruforum also provides a platform to engage policy makers in industry and government so that they can appreciate what we are doing. In this way, our knowledge industries can begin to reach out to policy makers’ desks and make a difference to our people,” observed Professor Malata.  

The business meeting, on the last day of the Ruforum’s 13th AGM, was attended by vice chancellors, principals and deans of member universities of the Ruforum.

Professor Malata also thanked Professor Adipala Ekwamu, Ruforum Executive Secretary, and his team for “the good job they are doing to bring us together each year through forums such as this AGM”.

 

“I am particularly pleased that the AGM has brought together academics, captains of industry and government policy makers. I am also reliably informed that this 13th AGM will particularly focus on engaging governments and development partners to support Higher Education in Africa,” she said while encouraging such partnerships and collaborations.

 

On MUST, Professor Malata thanked Ruforum for helping the university in Thyolo through capacity building challenges, particularly by providing scholarships to faculty members to go for further studies.

 

“In this regard, I would like to thank Vice Chancellors Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, Moi University, both in Kenya; Edwardo Mondhlane University in Mozambique; the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Cameroon, and the Pan African University’s Institute of Water and Energy Sciences in Algeria for admitting our staff members in their programmes through Ruforum,” she said.

Activities under the 13th AGM of Ruforum started on October 23, 2017 and ended on October 27, 2017.