CFFPLUS at the African Higher Education Week 2016

Dr Maysoun Mustafa, CFFPLUS Doctoral Training Partnership Manager, talks about her experience attending the Fifth Biennial Conference and African Higher Education Week 2016 in South Africa.
Dr Maysoun gave a presentation during the “Innovations in Higher Education” session. Her presentation was titled: "Transdisciplinary Research and Academic Vehicle for Supporting Sustainable Agricultural Diversification"
The Fifth Biennial Conference and African Higher Education Week 2016 was organised by Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) on the 17th – 21st October, in Cape Town, South Africa. With the theme of Linking Universities with Private Sector, Governments and other Stakeholders in support of Agriculture Development in Africa, the week drew in more than 750 regional and international academics and stakeholders, including the CFFPLUS DTP. 
 
A key point of discussion at the conference was the importance of collaboration between universities, private sector, civil society and agricultural research centres, such as the CGIAR centres, to address the global challenges in advancing science and education, particularly climate change and building the critical mass of innovative scientific leaders for Africa.  This was an ideal platform for CFFPLUS DTP to share and discuss our approach towards developing trained PhD students across the various disciplines that contribute towards agricultural development during a session on “Innovations in Higher Education”. The session included various speakers from notable African institutes in Higher Education, such as Makerere University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, as well as international partners such as Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) and Michigan State University (MSU). The various models presented by the speakers reflected the ambitious steps for innovation in higher education that have been adopted throughout Africa and globally, and highlighted a need for increased synergy between the different partners.  
 
The African Higher Education Week featured several prominent guest-speakers, including HE Dr Nkosazana Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. During her opening address, HE Dr Zuma announced the establishment of The Committee of 10: a committee comprising of 10 African Heads of State and Government to champion higher education, science and technology in Africa. The Committee of 10 will include two representatives from each of the five African regions and will be led by HE Macky Sall, President of Senegal. 

A member of newly established The Committee of 10, HE Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius also delivered a keynote focusing on the importance of enhancing education and science in Africa, particularly within the agriculture sector. HE Dr Gurib-Fakim highlighted the importance of science and innovation in driving today’s knowledge economy and the social and economic transformation of Africa. In May of this year, HE Dr Gurib-Fakim launched the Plant Earth Institute (PEI) PhD scholarships, a commitment toward awarding 10,000 PhD scholarships across Africa over the next 10 years to train the scientific leaders needed to address the global challenges.

The week was also a platform for several awards, including the GCHERA World Agriculture Prize 2016, which was awarded to Prof Lorne Babiuk from the University of Alberta, Canada. The GCHERA World Agriculture prize recognises the contribution of an individual towards the development of agricultural and life sciences. Furthermore, 15 Young African Entrepreneurs were recognised for their contribution towards their innovation in agriculture, which ranged from postharvest technologies to computer-based financial systems for supporting African farmers. 

The conference proved to be a true melting pot of stakeholders from different backgrounds and experiences, sharing the mutual goal of advancing agricultural and scientific development in Africa. Additionally, it was a personal honour to meet the Sudanese delegates at the RUFORUM Biennial 2016, which included the Ministry of Higher Education Undersecretary, as well as Vice Chancellors and Deans of Sudanese universities contributing towards agriculture development and transformation (photographed below with the RUFORUM Chair and Vice-chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology).