Coming of age: RUFORUM strategic business plan 2015 - 2020
Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture
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In July 2014, we celebrated 10 years of our existence as a regional network of African Universities led by Vice Chancellors. At the celebration, we reflected on the road travelled guided by our 10 year Strategic Plan, 2006-2015 and two Business Plans, 2006-2010 and 2011-2016. We concluded that we had met the vision of the 10 founding Vice Chancellors, that there was great benefit for universities to collaborate, and to put in place a platform for catalyzing the close engagement of African Universities in Africa’s development agenda. The regional Secretariat that we had established in 2004 to coordinate activities and provide support and guidance to the universities in terms of institutional reforms, particularly the institutionalization of participatory research processes and improved graduate training to serve smallholder agriculture had exceeded our expectations. This initiative was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, and subsequently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other agencies. After 10 years, we have been able to establish a dynamic regional platform that fosters collaboration, coordination and learning among the member Universities. We grew from a membership of 10 Universities in five countries in East and Southern Africa to today (August 2015) a membership of 46 Universities in 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Today we are a voice for Higher Education in Agriculture, and indeed Science, Technology and Innovation, and we are emerging as a regional knowledge hub for Higher Education in Agriculture. A key lesson we learnt was that the strong ownership and engagement of our Universities, led by their Vice Chancellors, was key to our success. We also learnt that in whatsoever we did, we needed to link closely to the grassroots, especially in terms of addressing the needs of smallholder farmers, and this required strategic partnership with a diversity of actors, both within and outside Africa. Further, sustainability of the RUFORUM initiative would eventually hinge on securing funding support from African governments and regional bodies. Looking ahead, we recognize that the landscape is changing with renewed interest in higher education in Africa. Moreover, the African Union sees higher education as critical for achieving its Africa Vision 2063. Further, food and nutrition security will remain a key challenge across the continent, especially with the intensification of climate changes and variability, rural –urban migration linked to a growing youth population, and their impact on human and environment health. We also have an emerging agribusiness sector and agro-industry, requiring new sets of skills and enterprising graduates. Fortunately, we have renewed commitment by African governments on sustaining the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) momentum; and a Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) and the African Union Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024) are in place. RUFORUM must position itself to respond to these opportunities, making clear the network’s value to its different market segments. Our consultations with key stakeholders in and outside Africa confirm that our Strategic objectives are still valid, but operation modalities need to be refreshed to respond to the emerging landscape. This is the basis of our new five year Strategic Business Plan (2015-2020). The Plan envisions a RUFORUM that is financially stable in 2020, with significant financial input from its members, African governments and reimbursement of services and operations. The Plan is adaptable, with a scheduled mid-term review in 2017-18.