WEST-CENTRAL AFRICA: University of Cotton opens

The University of Cotton, a unique initiative set up by the Association of African Cotton Producers (Aproca) to provide managerial and business expertise to the industry, has held its first course, a five-day seminar at the University-Polytechnic of Bobo-Dioulasso in the heart of the cotton-growing area of Burkina Faso.

The university, so far offering two week-long modules in September and January, was established by Bobo-Dioulasso with collaboration of France's top management school HEC, and the Foundation for World Agriculture and Rural Life, FARM. Other educational establishments are expected progressively to join the project.

It was established to respond to training needs of managers in the industry and their partners in the cotton producing regions of West and Central Africa, reported L'Autre Quotidien of Cotonou, Benin, which said it offered "a global curriculum covering development of managerial skills and knowledge of the agricultural sector in economic, strategic, organisational and technical areas", and included "education, research, innovation and communication".

Sidwayai of Ouagadougou said the university would equip participants, as highly qualified managers, "to overcome the problems of African cotton regarding enormous difficulties such as the subsidies paid to American cotton producers".

Maxime Somé, Burkina Faso's Minister of Professional Education, opened the first seminar which was attended by 42 managers and technicians from Aproca. Titled "Let us manage our businesses ourselves", it covered strategy, leadership and personnel management.

FARM says the university is devoting its first courses to cotton, on which some 20 million people depend in African agriculture. In the longer term it plans to expand studies to other agricultural areas.

Courses are open to graduates with equivalent of a bachelor's degree, and will lead to a master's qualification. Continuing training will also be available for those employed in cotton and other agricultural sectors and the university will carry out research and innovation. It is financed by FARM, and courses are free for members of Aproca.

Aproca was set up in December 2004 by cotton producers in 13 countries in West and Central Africa - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal and Togo.