West Africa to host ‘powerful’ RUFORUM meeting

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has picked the University of Cape Coast in Ghana to be the host for its 15th Annual General Meeting (AGM) which takes place from 2-6 December this year.

“RUFORUM’s gatherings are among the most powerful platforms in the continent, addressing one of the most significant issues affecting the continental growth – poverty and hunger”, said Dr Francis Otto, manager of the organisation's Knowledge Hub.

This year’s meeting will bring together more than 400 delegates including educationists, researchers, policy-makers and agriculture and education ministers among others. Deliberations will focus on how to actualise the African Universities' Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI) plan.

Expanded reach

Otto said the choice of location for the meeting, the first to be held in a West African country, was the product of a strategic decision the forum made in 2014 to expand its geographical reach and bring on board universities in the French-speaking countries of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

“It was a deliberate choice following a strategic decision for RUFORUM to reach all parts of Africa including West Africa,” said Otto. The choice of the University of Cape Coast as the host institution also recognises the fact that the Ghanaian university was one of the first three institutions from the region to become a member of RUFORUM in 2014, along with the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, and the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

“After demonstrating its commitment as a full member since joining the network and showing a spirited interest backed by ability to host this AGM, it was only right that the opportunity to host be given to the University of Cape Coast,” he told University World News.

Language inclusivity

Otto described RUFORUM as a pan-African organisation which was working on overcoming challenges such as language barriers on the continent. He said the body will take a multilingual approach in communications and operations, and at big gatherings such as the AGM.

The forum currently uses at least four languages through “competent and professional interpreters” during AGMs and other major gatherings.

Otto said the theme for this year’s AGM was chosen to align with RUFORUM’s Vision 2030, which seeks to create “vibrant, transformative universities to catalyse sustainable, inclusive agricultural development to feed and create prosperity for Africa”.

The president of Ghana, ministers of education and agriculture from at least seven countries are expected to attend, and high level speakers will include Kenyan law scholar, public speaker and pan-Africanist Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba.

“This is going to be different from other AGMs. It will involve many other activities including a scientific component to allow researchers to present their work, and there will be a young innovators’ competition targeting the West African region,” Otto said.

Skills training

Side-events including post-doctoral fellows’ training, 'targeted' skills enhancement training for university principals and deans, leadership and management training for the 40 members of the Forum for Women Vice-Chancellors in Africa, and social media training for students from RUFORUM member universities in Ghana have also been planned.

A learning event on indigenous chicken production in Africa, and business and entrepreneurship training by the University of Cape Coast's Institute of Business for young innovators and entrepreneurs are also lined up.

At the event RUFORUM will recognise farmers who have made significant contributions to agricultural transformation in Ghana as part of supporting national efforts for the advancement and transformation of agriculture.

Scientists and other actors who have made significant contributions or have supported the advancement of excellence in research and higher education, will be recognised through RUFORUM’s Impact Research and Science in Africa (IMPRESSA) awards scheme.

The last biennial conference in Nairobi, Kenya took place in October 2018 and was attended by over 1,000 participants.