The Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, H.E Per Lindgarde has acknowledged the key role played by higher education in building human capacity and reducing poverty in the country. The Ambassador emphasized the need to invest in higher education as a way accelerating technological diffusion, which would decrease knowledge gaps and help reduce poverty.
Addressing participants during the Annual Planning Meeting for the Makerere University-Sweden Bilateral Research Programme on 24th April 2017 in the Makerere University Main Hall, the Ambassador revealed that the success of higher education in Uganda depends on how the system is articulated within the broader social, economic and cultural framework of the country. He advocated for a sustained effort towards an integrated and differentiated higher education system.
“I strongly believe that it is time for Uganda to re-assess its higher education policies and re-equip the sector with the policies and resources required to make it a dynamic engine that can help power the Ugandan economy,” he said.
Organized by Makerere University Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT), the Annual Planning Meeting for Makerere-Sweden Bilateral Research Programme was attended by Principal Investigators, Supervisors, and Sida-sponsored students at MSc/MA, PhD and Postdoctoral research training from the five Ugandan partner universities of Makerere University, Kyambogo, Busitema, Gulu and Mbarara University of Science and Technology ; together with Swedish representatives from the Universities of Gothenburg; Linköping; Stockholm; Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Mälardalen University; Chalmers University of Technology; Lund University; Borås University; Karolinska Institute (KI); Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Uppsala University.
According to the 1st Secretary and Senior Research Advisor, Swedish Embassy, Kampala Dr. Gity Behravan, the five days Annual Planning Meeting (24th- 28th April 2017) under the theme, Making Research Work for Regional Development, would entail sharing research results from the five public universities involved in this program. The meeting would focus on three areas; research uptake, quality assurance and research management.
“The Swedish Government is proud of the results that have come out of this research collaboration so far. Results that also Sweden stands stronger from, both in terms of science discoveries and institutional exchange,” she stated.
The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu appreciated the significance of the meeting saying that it symbolises the nature and character of the relationship between Makerere University, the Royal Government and People of Sweden.
He thanked the Royal Government of Sweden for its continuing support that has enabled the institution and the nation at large to continue producing high performing graduates who are innovative and responsive to the development challenges at both national and regional levels.
“Makerere University and Uganda in general have enjoyed and continue to benefit from the generosity of the Royal Government of Sweden in the areas of human resources capacity building, research, library services/information technology and infrastructural development,” said the Vice Chancellor.
“Over 250, Makerere University academic staff members have completed their PhD studies, more than 100 have completed master degrees and 20 have completed post-doctoral fellowships due the Swedish cooperation with Uganda,” he added.
Makerere University– Sweden Bilateral Research Program (2015-2020) is a renewed contract research program between the Government of Uganda and Government of Sweden. In the current cooperation agreement, the Swedish government appropriated a fund of 275 million SEC (USD 32 million) to support 17 research teams from the Ugandan public universities to build their human resource and improve the environment for research and training.
According to the Director, Research and Graduate Training-Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, the Program has embarked on strengthening partnerships and optimizing synergies with Sida supported initiatives in the region, while focusing on strengthening Public Universities to generate knowledge and promote research uptake for national and regional development.
“Our target is to see to it that 147 Master degree students, 125 PhD students and 65 post doctorate researchers complete their research and reports submitted by 2020. We also want to develop the Quality assurance mechanisms in the public university system, engender all Curricula and research, review and harmonize PhD programs, develop New PhD curricula and training as well as supervising 500 PhD Students and staff in scholarly writing,” he said.
Being mindful about the gender disaggregation, the program has focused on the affirmative action of gender mainstreaming with an improvement on the scholarship enrolment process for female students. It has increased visibility, acceptability and upward movement of women into leadership positions.
“Out of the 248 students that are awarded scholarships, 43 are female. We have also streamlined gender in the academic curriculum of the university. We want to create a Commitment to gender equity by the University,” he said.
In a presentation on Opportunities for Capacity Building and National Development, Dr. Rob Skilton from the International Centre of Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) – Nairobi, Kenya, introduced the participants to a new and innovative research project of rearing insects for both food and feed. According to Skilton rearing insects can be a solution to the increasing challenge of food shortage in Africa.
“Insects reproduce quickly, and are valuable sources of protein, minerals and vitamins that are essential for human development. With enormous demand of meat in the world, insect can be a compliment since are eaten by many people in the world, given their nutritious value,” said
The first day of the Annual Planning Meeting climaxed with the Science Day organized by the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS). The Science Day provided a platform for researchers and scientists to discuss and share knowledge on the importance of technology in research science. The discussion was accompanied by a scientific exhibition of the research work by researchers and students from the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS).
Prof. Sachs Expresses Optimism about Africa’s Economic Growth, PDMs Success
The Government of Uganda has been called upon to put in place measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Parish Development Model (PDM) programme. The call was made at a High-Level Policy Dialogue organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), National Planning Authority and Makerere University.
Hosted by Makerere University on Wednesday 28th February 2024 at the Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, the Dialogue was based on the theme “Accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals through leveraging Innovating Financing, the Parish Development Model, and Science and Technology”. During the dialogue, the government was urged to set up institutions that can track the usage of the program funds to ensure that the over Shs1 Trillion pumped into the program annually does not go to waste.
This call was made by Prof Ezra Suruma, the Chancellor Emeritus of Makerere University and Uganda’s former Minister of Finance, who was a panelist at the dialogue. Hon Suruma warned that currently, it is difficult to assess the achievements of PDM since there is no clear monitoring of the projects at the parish level where the money is being invested.
“In Uganda, we are investing Shs 1 Trillion in the 10,594 parishes, but if you ask where it is going, you can’t find it. The PDM money is capital that the government is attempting to invest in our country and that capital is supposed to accumulate over time. If we invest Shs1 Trillion this year, next year we should have more than that,” Prof. Suruma said.
The Chancellor Emeritus as such, called for the establishment of an institution that can trace where the PDM funds are being invested so that this money is treated as an investment and not consumption.
Minister for Local Government Hon Raphael Magyezi however, assured Prof Suruma and the audience that implementation of the PDM program is highly monitored and leakages are extremely minimal. This, he said, was because the government decided to digitalize payments of the PDM money directly from the Treasury to the parish-based SACCOs. Furthermore, he noted that Government has put in place the PDM Management Information System (MIS) in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasis on data for development.
“We have developed our own Management Information System so that we know which household is actually in subsistence, and we have parameters for that, and we are able to monitor and evaluate our programme based on a tracker system” Hon. Magyezi explained.
The Minister further noted that PDM targets 8.9 million households in Uganda, 39% (3.4 million) of which are still engaged in subsistence, with 1 million of these reached so far. He admitted although the PDM still has its work cut out, the Government is proud of the progress so far. Hon. Magyezi shared that Uganda has 145 establishments at the level of Local Council 5 consisting of 135 Districts and 10 Cities, 2,284 Sub-Counties to supervise the parishes and under the parishes, 70,626 villages.
The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja who was Chief Guest at the lecture shared that PDM is the Government of Uganda’s second key strategy for accelerating the SDGs and commended the Model as a “comprehensive strategy to uplift the incomes and welfare of all Ugandans.” The first key strategy is Leveraging Innovative Financing Mechanisms, while the third is putting more focus on Science, Technology and Innovation.
Rt. Hon. Nabbanja highlighted the government’s commitment to harnessing the power of research and innovation to provide a strong foundation to advance the digital agenda. She added that the PDM Laboratory at Makerere gives the University an opportunity to amplify and support efficiency and effectiveness of the programme’s implementation.
“Therefore, the PDM Laboratory should continue to be a platform for 1) Distilling and providing additional insights, 2) Commissioning further research and enquiry on the basis of information provided by the technical units and feedback and 3) Analyse feedback to test out policies and operational issues for Cabinet to take action” remarked the Prime Minister.
She informed the audience that Prof. Jeffrey Sachs is leading similar efforts with a lab at Columbia University and urged the leadership of Makerere University to establish a collaboration with Columbia University, “and I’m sure Prof. Sachs is much willing to support this”.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned Economist, leader in sustainable development, and senior UN advisor delivered a keynote address in which he expressed optimism about development prospects on the African continent.
The prolific economist and author, projected that Africa would take off and become a global economic force in the next 40 years if it could find ways of uniting into a single economic block.
Citing China and India Prof. Sachs advised the government to set targets and also set instruments to help achieve these targets, if the country is to achieve the SDGs. The simple idea of “targets and instruments” was developed by Nobel Prize Laureate Jan Tinbergen. Tinbergen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Economics in 1969 together with Ragnar Frisch.
Prof. Sachs defined Sustainable Development as the result of achieving four difficult objectives namely; Material wellbeing for everybody, Social inclusion, Environmental Sustainability, and Peace and Cooperation. He nevertheless shared that these can be achieved by Tinbergen’s “targets and instruments” idea.
He advised Uganda to copy China and invest in six major types of capital namely; Education, Infrastructure, Massive Interconnected Infrastructure, Protecting Natural Capital such as clean energy sources, Intellectual/Science and Technology Capital as well as Business Capital. On financing, he advised the government to find flexible and low interest financing with 40 year maturity if it is for sectors such as education.
“What I want to promise you, though I can’t give you the final answer for that part of innovative financing, we are going to get it done. Uganda is going to show a strong NDP IV, it is going to show a very robust plan to achieve rapid growth over the next 40 years, it is going to show that that rapid growth easily repays any long-term low-interest loans that have taken to achieve that, it is going to make the case that the Parish Development Model proves the last mile in an ingenious way, and that institutionally this country is poised for the breakthrough that we are talking about at the regional, national and local level” Prof. Sachs summed up.
In her remarks, Ms. Nwanneakolam Vwede-Obahor, the UNDP Resident Representative warned of Uganda’s widening development financing gap, standing currently at 33 trillion shillings (US$ 8.8 billion) annually.
“Traditional financing sources such as domestic taxes, Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), concessional loans from external partners, borrowing from the domestic market and foreign direct investment are not enough to finance the SDGs,” she said.
“Uganda must explore alternative avenues to secure affordable and flexible financing to drive the development phase in the next seven years. This will involve continuous alignment of the budget allocations and development plans with SDG priorities, diversifying funding sources, including public-private partnerships and unlocking new innovative financing models, and enhancing financial resilience.”
The dignitaries, accompanied by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, toured the state-of-the-art Innovation Pod, which is poised to drive innovation and research in the country. In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor said that Makerere remains focused on implementing strategies and programmes under SDG 4 which emphasizes Quality Education. “I am therefore pleased that today, as we continue the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, Makerere University is on board hosting Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, the Office of the Prime Minister, National Planning Authority, UNDP, and a number of stakeholders to enhance the discussion on leveraging innovative financing, the parish development model and science and technology.”
Prof. Nawangwe shared with the audience, Makerere’s readiness to contribute to the success of the PDM, citing the role of the PDM Policy lab headed by Prof. Eria Hisali. The PDM Policy lab conducted capacity building to sensitise low-income earners about government programs and how they can utilize the funds to improve their standards of living. The lab continues to undertake research on how to effectively implement PDM. The Vice Chancellor equally shared Makerere University’s commitment to undertaking research and programmes aimed at ensuring that health becomes a priority on the global agenda through the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health (CESH). Established in partnership with the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, CESH’s core activities include; Capacity development and Education, Tools and resources, Networks and partnerships, and Research.