Programme has benefitted 45,000 East Africans in 50 years

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has provided 45,000 different scholarships to the research community in East Africa since 1973 when it established an office in the region.

The scholarships have come in different formats, including funding for PhD studies, short term research visits to Germany, study in regional universities and support for conducting research at home. Out of the total number, 18,000 scholarships have come from Kenya, which hosts the organisation’s regional office for East Africa.

While Ethiopia, the region’s leader in terms of population with about 120 million people, has had the highest number of beneficiaries, South Sudan, the youngest country in the region, and Burundi, one of the smallest in the region, have benefitted the least.

On the other hand, the organisation takes pride in having 11,662 alumni from the region, with Ethiopia leading with 3,884 beneficiaries, followed by Kenya with 3,545.

Tanzania and Uganda are next in line with 1,927 and 1,829 respectively, while Rwanda has had 304 recipients, Burundi 131 and South Sudan 43, as of September 2023, according to the DAAD.

The organisation defines alumni as individuals who have “verifiably received at least three months of individual funding from the DAAD”.

At celebrations to mark 50 years of the programme’s presence in the region, held in Nairobi on 19 September, Dr Kai Sicks, the secretary general of the DAAD, said: “The alumni continue to work together with German partners and serve as anchors and an example of excellent relationship between Germany and this region.”

A developmental trigger

“We are pleased and proud to have fostered over 50 years of distinguished careers in East Africa, namely in Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. There are people with impressive experiences, encounters and stories that have triggered and are triggering lasting developments and impact in their countries,” said the secretary general.

The DAAD’s support to the region, he said, came in four categories of in-country scholarships which started in the 1960s even before the DAAD had established the regional Nairobi office, starting almost immediately after Kenya’s independence in 1963. The second-tier support came for individuals in the form of various scholarship programmes with stays in Germany.

Tier three involved the promotion of institutional cooperation between universities in East Africa and Germany and the establishment of the Africa Centres of Excellence. Finally, the fourth-tier support is for the harmonisation process for the East African Common Higher Education Area which came into force in 2020.

The Centres of Excellence and institutional cooperation between universities in the region are some of the newest additions to the DAAD work that has been conceived in the last 15 years, Sicks added; the Africa leadership programme established in 2021 has emerged as one of the most popular schemes.

Masters programme

Established with the funding from the German Federal Foreign Office, the masters programme also benefits the West and Central Africa region.

For East Africa, this year, it was on offer to nationals and refugees in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania or Uganda receiving over 1,400 applications for 40 positions available, Sicks disclosed.

The DAAD was committed to the improvement of the quality of education and research and to moulding future leaders and experts in Africa, he added, noting that opportunities for intensification of academic and political relations were boundless.

The German Corporation for International Cooperation and the DAAD had a great ally in the form of the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA), said IUCEA Executive Secretary Professor Gaspard Banyankimbona, who noted that the region had greatly benefitted from the support of the DAAD.

With a population of 300 million people the East African Community has a huge youth segment with growing education needs. The region was also the first in Africa to have a higher education organisation under a regional trading block, he added.

The IUCEA is carrying out an audit of the African Centres of Excellence under its ambit, with the aim of retaining them as specialised regional training hubs. The centres, which have been supported with World Bank funding that ends in 2024, will also be transformed into a regional research network, he explained.