RUFORUM boosts size and diversity in new membership drive

In a move that significantly expands both its membership and diversity, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has added 20 new institutions to its network, making it one of the largest higher education subscription organisations in Africa.

A total of 20 universities, drawn from 12 different countries, including West Africa and the francophone regions, have recently joined the Uganda-based network, taking its total membership to 125 universities from 38 countries.

RUFORUM was founded at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, in 2004 with five member universities.

The expansion of membership follows a decision taken at the RUFORUM 15th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 6 December 2019 at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, to approve applications for membership from more universities, particularly those in West Africa and the francophone regions.

“The growth and expansion in membership is a sign that RUFORUM has come of age and therefore this will help the network to carry out its core mission, which is to strengthen the capacities of universities to foster innovations responsive to the demands of smallholder farmers and value chains, through the training of high quality researchers,” said George Kanyama-Phiri, the chairperson of the RUFORUM board, in a press statement released on Monday 13 January.

He noted that increased interest from universities in joining RUFORUM was a demonstration that the organisation was responding to universities’ critical needs and was adding value for member institutions.

Nearly half of the new members are drawn from West Africa, including four from Nigeria, three from Ghana and two from Benin.

In addition to Benin, one university from the French-speaking Cameroon – L’Université de Bamenda – and two universities from the French-speaking Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – Université de Kisangani and Université Officielle de Bukavu – also enrolled.

The rest of the new entrants were drawn from the Eastern and Southern African regions, with the University of Mpumalanga being the latest institution to join from South Africa.*

The decision by Ghana to host the AGM in December, the first to be held in a West African country, was informed by a deliberate desire to embrace universities from French-speaking countries, and the West African region in general.

It was the culmination of a strategic decision RUFORUM made in 2014 to bring on board universities in the French-speaking countries of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Togo and Senegal, as well as the English-speaking countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, RUFORUM official Francis Otto told University World News last year.

RUFORUM’s mandate includes overseeing graduate training and networks of specialisation in the countries and universities where it works.

* The full list of new member institutions is as follows: Université de Kisangani and Université Officielle de Bukavu from the DRC, L’Université de Bamenda (Cameroon), Aksum University (Ethiopia), Maseno University (Kenya), Somali National University (Somalia), West Kordufan University (Sudan), University of Mpumalanga (South Africa), Mulungushi University (Zambia), Midlands State University and Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (Zimbabwe), Université Nationale d’Agriculture and University of Parakou (Benin), Cape Coast Technical University, Koforidua Technical University, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Education, Winneba (Ghana), Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Federal University Dutsin-Ma and Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Nigeria).