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Economists Offer Policy Recommendations to Curb Youth Unemployment in Uganda

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Economists from the Makerere University’s School Economics have provided policy options to help mitigate youth unemployment in Uganda.

A team of researchers led by Prof. Edward Bbaale as Principal Investigator assisted by Dr. Susan Kavuma, Peter Babyenda, Brenda Kiconco, Anitah Kyamugaba , Hennery Sebukeera and Nakigudde Claire   under took a research project titled, ‘ “Empirical Review of Youth Employment Policies in Uganda”with technical and financial support from partnership for economic policy Nairobi Kenya funded by Mastercard Foundation.

The study looked at insights from different people on how youth unemployment and under employment can be solved. The research project intended to review the youth employment policies, legislations, interventions and programs with the aim of identifying the best practices for promoting youth employability, productivity, and opportunities among the youth.

A section of panelists during the meeting.
A section of panelists during the meeting.

The researchers  worked closely with the different  Institutional framework concerned with youth affairs including in the  Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and  the  Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Education and Sports, National Planning Authority, Federation of Uganda Employers, National Organization of Trade Unions and parliament among others

The study findings were presented during the dissemination workshop held on 9th November 2022 at Protea Hotel in Kampala to members of the academia, representatives from government ministries, departments and agencies, the Private sector, civil society organizations, representatives of the youth from different divisions of Kampala and other districts and key collaborators.

The dissemination workshop was intended to validate the findings of the study through contributions, corrections,and an evaluation of the opportunities, challenges, chances, the gaps, costs of and thorough practical policy options with the aim of enriching the report and the policy recommendations in particular to government.

Another section of the panelists during the meeting.
Another section of the panelists during the meeting.

Representing the Principal, College of Business and Management Sciences, the Dean School of Economics and also PI  Prof. Edward Bbaale noted that youth unemployment and under employment is one of the policy issues that warrant due attention.

He observed that Uganda is one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world with 54% of the population below 18 years of age and yet the population is growing very fast at 3.4 %.

Bbaale added that Uganda is also faced with a serious problem of high school dropout rate. Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that on average one million pupils that enroll in primary one, only 600 thousand sit the primary leaving examination and this number reduces to 300 thousand at the Uganda Certificate of education and reduces further to 100 thousand to those that go for the advanced certificate.

Prof. Edward Bbaale delivering the opening remarks.
Prof. Edward Bbaale delivering the opening remarks.

“The question is where these young men do and women go and who is the messiah. Is TVET, the different skilling programmes the messiah for Uganda? and more broadly even those that graduate at higher level, the question is that whether the problem is at the demand level to the extent that the economy is so much contracted and that there is no space for people to come and take employment meaning that the economy is growing without creating jobs”. Bbaale questioned.

Aware that the services sector is driving growth in Uganda and the agricultural sector is well behind services and industry as far as GDP is concerned, Bbaale noted that this means that there has been sectorial shift in GDP composition- at one time it was agriculture ahead of industry and services but now we have services ahead of the two.

“Whereas we have had the sectorial shifts in the GDP composition, there are no sectoral shifts in employment and majority of our people still depend on agriculture and there is a smaller cake despite its holding 60%  of our people coming with questions of low productivity and poverty.

PI Prof. Edward Bbaale speaking to participants.
PI Prof. Edward Bbaale speaking to participants.

And so given that, if majority of Ugandans are not employed in the services sector which is leading the GDP composition, can we say our economy is having a jobless profile? We are growing without jobs and then on the other hand, can we say it is the supply side and skills mismatch? Do those people that graduate every year in universities and other institutions match the available opportunities?.Prof. Bbaale questioned.

Prof. Bbaale also stressed that the issue of youth unemployment and under employment is topical and has gone on for sometime but not leading the same in finding a lasting solutions for the youth unemployment problem.

He congratulated the research team for successfully implementing the study and partners – the Mastercard Foundation through the partnership for economic policy in Nairobi for sponsoring  the different activities of the project as well as the stakeholders from MDAs, Private sector,  CSOs and development partners for contributing wonderful ideas.

A section of participants attending the meeting.
A section of participants attending the meeting.

Unemployment associated with Labor market information system, curriculum design and population growth

The Assistant Commissioner in charge of Youth Affairs in the  Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Kyateka Mondo  thanked the PI and team for putting the research together saying, they are looking forward to receiving what the university thinks is the solution to unemployment question in Uganda.

In addition to addressing the issue of labour market information system, the commissioner observed that it is prudent for training institutions to interface with employers while designing the curriculum but also address the issue of population growth.

“The problem in Africa is that we train today what was needed for yesterday. Are the training institutions in touch with the people who employ? Do you have a time where we interface with the Mukwanos and UMAs of this world and all the people who need the work force?

Commissioner Mondo Kyateka speaking during the meeting.
Commissioner Mondo Kyateka speaking during the meeting.

Second,… we are likely not to break even until we address the issue of population growth. As long as we are producing as if there is no tomorrow. As long as we believe in Genesis that go out there and multiply and fill the world.How are you going to prepare and skill them to get quality education. And the man who tells you to go and fill the world produced only one son –Jesus Christ.”, Mondo stated adding that:

“.. until the population question is addressed and until the training institutions sit together with who is going to employ their products, , there will be nothing new that we are going to hear. The skills given at training institutions do not match the labour markets. So until we move away from the book of lamentations to the book of acts and we act.

Fix the issue of so many children, fix the issue of poverty among our people, fix the issue of a functional and prudent labour market information system. We need action today to bring hope to so many young people in this country but we also have to do mindset deconstruction”. Mondo asserted.

Participants posing for a group photo after the opening ceremony.
Participants posing for a group photo after the opening ceremony.

Mondo further observed that over 45 universities are churning out young people every year, operating under a jobless economic growth in that, the economy is not producing the jobs that are badly needed.  He added that if unemployment question is fixed, many other problems like poverty, drug abuse early pregnancies, theft, suicide  would have been fixed.

Formal employment and trends in youth unemployment in Uganda

Presenting the study findings Peter Babyenda noted that formal employment share of government  jobs declined from 6.8% in 2012/13 to 6.5% in 2016/17 while total formal private employment declined from 200,000 jobs in 2012/13 to 141,000 in 2016/17. In 2016/17, only 13,000 (9%) youth had a formal private job.

On trends in youth employment, Babyenda reported  a fluctuating Labour Force Participation Rate –  57% (2016/17), 66% (2017/18), 62% (2018/19), and an  increasing youth unemployment rate – 13% (2016/17), 18% (2017/18), 17% (2018/19)

Babyenda presented worrying statistics on Youth neither in Employment nor in Education or Training (NEETs) estimated at 39%. This is worrying – where are they? He said there are twice young ladies in NEET as men largely found in in Greater Kampala, Northern Uganda and Western region which is a big threat to Uganda’s social cohesion and political stability.

Babyenda presenting.
Babyenda presenting.

NEETS according to Babyenda are largely attributed to low educational attainment (including among their parents), living in  deprived neighborhoods, low socio-economic status and other barriers to participation like pregnancy or disability.

“The  2018/19 Annual Labour Force Survey report reveals that almost half of the youths (46%) are not qualified for the existing jobs because they do not have required skills.Low wages for youth as the median wage of public sector employees is estimated at UGX 510,000 ($134), while in Private Sector it  is estimated at UGX150,000 ($39).

Existing employment policies seem universal and do not segregate persons in formal and informal sectors in their coverage. More so, there is limited evidence to show the expansion of social protection coverage in the informal sector as required by the National Social Protection Policies. It also remain unclear whether the existing youth employment programs are achieving their targets” Mr. Babyenda reported.

Mr. Peter Babyenda presenting the study findings.
Mr. Peter Babyenda presenting the study findings.

Key findings from the evaluation of the different Youth Empowerment Programs (YEP)

The study indicated that although access to youth employment funds had a positive effect on youth business expansion, there was no significant evidence of the fund’s effect on job creation.

Major stakeholders in YEP were not fully fulfilling their mandates; while on the policy front, the findings show that the youth funds have a long-term impact on its intended goals.

Promoting youth entrepreneurship according to this study should be approached holistically (not just through credit) and should target productive sectors with high employment creation potential.

ILO representative speaking during the workshop.
ILO representative speaking during the workshop.

The need for a strong institutional framework including M&E and accountability frameworks and the removal of barriers to youth self-employment were also proposed.

The study disclosed  a number of challenges faced by the youth involved in Youth Employment programmes and they included ; Misuse of YEP funds, limited follow-ups of beneficiaries due to inadequate monitoring and supervisory capacity, Political Interference, High default rates (failure repay loans/resolving funds) and Poor group formation dynamics

Beneficiaries according to this research, reported delayed release of funds to youth groups or beneficiaries by the ministry of finance and implementing agencies – MoGLSD, local governments, Corruption, Inadequate information on existence of youth, Education miss-match affecting youth employability AND Limited preparation of beneficiaries

The study notes that common youth challenges in Uganda include: Unemployment, underemployment and undignified work.

The study further notes that Uganda has initiated a number of Youth Employment programs over time such as the youth livelihood fund, presidential youth initiatives, youth skilling programs and free vocational education among others.

Youth MP Hon. Phiona Nyamutoro (R) contributing to the discussion.
Youth MP Hon. Phiona Nyamutoro (R) contributing to the discussion.

Many Youth (39%) still either not in School or employment and more among females (50.5%) and the need for specific Policy change to ensure that the youth obtain right skills for existing employment opportunities in the country.

Policy recommendations

The study recommends that government prioritise policies that create jobs and address youth unemployment/under-employment and strengthen the YEP’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL) system.

The study proposes the development of a clear resource mobilization strategy during the YEP design phase and expansion of YEPs into new locations with updated priority areas.

The policy initiatives should be SMART and should reinforce labour market participation, especially regarding discouraged workers and women.

Other policy recommendations include benchmarking with other countries that have succeeded; Reduce of political interferences in the bureaucratic process of the YEP implementation; Increase budget allocation to YEP and also improve the adequacy and effectiveness of the technical support unit of these programs.

In addition, the study advocates for holistic youth employment policy initiatives as opposed to piecemeal, ad-hoc, under-funded and poorly implemented programs. The programs should be rooted within a wider framework that places structural transformation of the country such as NDP III, Vision 2040, among others.

Business & Management

Prof. Hisali, Prof. Yawe handover office to Prof. Bbaale, Prof. Wokadala

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In a vibrant ceremony brimming with nostalgia and optimism, College of Business and Management Sciences-Makerere University (CoBAMS) celebrated the transition of leadership from the accomplished hands of Prof. Eria Hisali and Prof. Bruno L. Yawe to the promising stewardship of Prof. Edward Bbaale and Prof. James Wokadala on Friday 31st May 2024.

The event, attended by esteemed members of the university community, including representatives from the Vice Chancellor’s office and members of the Central Management Team, was a testament to the collaborative spirit and dedication that have come to define CoBAMS. The outgoing Principal, Prof. Eria Hisali, and Deputy Principal, Prof. Bruno Yawe, were lauded for their eight years of service, during which they significantly advanced the college’s academic and infrastructural capabilities.

A Legacy of Excellence

Prof. Hisali’s farewell address highlighted the numerous achievements under his leadership. He proudly noted the establishment of strategic partnerships and collaborations that have greatly benefited the college. “Our MoU with Stellenbosch University provided full PhD scholarships for four Academic Staff Members, while our partnership with Wageningen University in the Netherlands supported PhD training for two Staff Members. Additionally, the Republic of Korea’s embassy in Uganda granted three PhD scholarships,” he remarked.

Assoc Prof. Bruno Yawe (Left) handing over to incoming Deputy Principal Dr. James Wokadala.

These collaborations extended to notable institutions such as ACCA, Prudential Uganda, Addis Ababa University, The University of Rwanda, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, and the University of Dar es Salaam, reflecting CoBAMS’ commitment to internationalization and academic excellence. Prof. Hisali also mentioned the development of a Quality Assurance Framework and significant infrastructural proposals, including a new block pending government funding.

The outgoing Principal shared impressive statistics: a fivefold increase in publications from 30 in 2017 to 150 in 2023, expansion of wireless internet coverage to over 90% of the college, and a significant rise in PhD holders among the academic staff to 60%.

Prof. Yawe appreciated all the academic, administrative and support staff that supported his leadership throughout the 8 years of service.

Looking Ahead

Prof. Edward Bbaale, the incoming Principal, expressed his vision to elevate CoBAMS as a global leader in innovative teaching, research, and policy engagement. With over two decades at CoBAMS, including eight years as Dean of the School of Economics, he emphasized his commitment to continuing the progress made by his predecessors. He pledged to prioritize graduate training, faculty research, and the commercialization of innovations, alongside strategic financial initiatives such as the College Endowment Fund.

Prof. Eria Hisali receiving a token of appreciation from memebers of the Administrative Staff at MakCoBAMS.

Prof. James Wokadala, the new Deputy Principal, acknowledged the substantial achievements of the outgoing leaders and outlined his plans to build on their legacy. He aims to foster a supportive and engaging environment by establishing a gym for staff and creating a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO).

Heartfelt Farewells and New Beginnings

The ceremony featured heartfelt speeches from various stakeholders, celebrating the contributions of Prof. Hisali and Prof. Yawe. Dr. Susan Namirembe Kavuma, representing the academic staff, praised the outgoing leaders for their unwavering support and urged the new administration to continue fostering a conducive environment for teaching and learning. Ms. Caroline Nanono Jjingo, on behalf of the administrative staff, echoed these sentiments, appreciating the open and inspirational leadership style of Prof. Hisali and Prof. Yawe. “Throughout their tenure, they have resonated the words of Henry Ross Perot, who said that “Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be led.”  She said.

Outgoing Principal Eria Hisali and outgoing Deputy Principal Bruno Yawe cut cake.

The Deputy University Secretary, Mr. Simon Kizito, provided sage advice to the incoming leaders, emphasizing the importance of openness to feedback, leading by example, and maintaining accountability. He reminded them that failure is an inevitable part of leadership and encouraged them to learn from it while prioritizing self-care.

On their part, the support staff appreciated the outgoing leadership for their open door policy and willingness to support all staff especially those experiencing life challenges. Quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1, Mr Joseph Ikarokot said there was a season for everything and staff were privileged to have worked with the duo.

A Promising Future

As the new leadership team embarks on their journey, they carry forward a legacy of excellence and a vision for a brighter future. With their extensive experience and commitment to innovation and collaboration, Prof. Bbaale and Prof. Wokadala are well-positioned to steer CoBAMS toward greater achievements and global recognition.

The ceremony concluded with a celebratory cake-cutting, gifts from the administrative staff, and a reaffirmation of the college’s enduring spirit of unity and progress. The new era at CoBAMS promises continued growth and success, building on the solid foundation laid by Prof. Hisali and Prof. Yawe.

Some of the staff memebers who were present at the handover ceremony.

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Business & Management

CoBAMS Annual Report 2023

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Professor Eria Hisali, Principal College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS). Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

The overall objective of our operations and strategy is to position the College as a relevant and sustainable institution of international standing with high caliber staff, an active presence in public policy research and formulation, and contribution to the community. This report highlights the main activities that have taken place over the year 2023 in fulfillment of the College’s objective.

Strategic initiatives

The College continued to pursue plans to expand and remodel its infrastructure facilities. The Feasibility Study for the proposed infrastructure expansion and remodeling project got approval of the Development Committee of the Government of Uganda in March 2023. A budget code for the project was assigned to the project shortly afterwards. Engagements are underway to secure funding for the project starting the 2024/2025 financial year.

The College also continued to strengthen its Endowment Fund. Fifty million shillings was added to the Fund over the course of the year and an exercise to reconcile the amount of money held on the Main Endowment Fund of the University was embarked on. We still await an opportunity for the formal launch of the Fund to pave the way for a more structured capital campaign.

Teaching and learning

The College took steps to strengthen its quality assurance framework. The College established a Quality Assurance Committee to oversee the quality of its operations across the Board. It also embarked in automation of workflow processes in the administrative and support functions. The College also continued to support student led discussion groups and engaged Graduate Fellows at each of its Departments.

Three thousand new students took up programs at the College in the course of the year while the College presented one thousand six hundred sixty eight candidates for graduation.

The CoBAMS Library continued to subscribe to The Economist & Harvard Business Review magazines – both the print & electronic versions. The Library also acquired 366 Titles and 395 copies of textbooks purchased and delivered from the Book Bank; and 26 titles & 41 copies of textbooks purchased by the College.

Brand visibility

The quality of programmes and staff are ranked highly. Students on the Master of Arts Degree in Economics emerged the best performing of the seven premier universities on the continent at the Joint Facility for Electives (JFE). This program is run on a collaborative arrangement where students take core courses at their universities for one academic year after which the elective courses are taught jointly. Staff from the College served as visiting lecturers and external examiners at other institutions. Staff from the college produced over 200 new publications and facilitated at various panel discussions and policy dialogues.

Collaborations, partnerships and grants

The College concluded a Memorandum of understanding with the Human Resource Management Association of Uganda (HRMAU), which aims to train prospective HR practitioners on professional conduct to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

The School of Economics collaborated with the University of Oxford to host the 2023 workshop on Economic Development in Africa. The four-day workshop brought together scholars across Africa, Europe, and North America. Thirty one frontier papers on Economic Development in Africa were presented cutting across, Trade, Health, Natural Resources and Environment, Political Economy, Poverty, Productivity, Fiscal & Monetary Policy, and Agriculture among others. Staff and graduate students had parallel training sessions on Survey Design and Data Collection for Gender Analysis (Lead by Cheryl Doss, Tufts University), Introduction to Structural Transformation and Growth (Lead by Douglas Gollin, University of Oxford and Tufts University, and Joe Kaboski, University of Notre Dame), and Randomised Control Trials (Lead by Clare Hofmeyr, J-PAL Africa). Faculty from the University of Tufts and the University of Notre Dame are exploring the possibility of teaming up with faculty at MakSOE to support Macroeconomics at the PhD level. This could extend to supervising PhD research within the space of structural transformation. The funding is likely to be from Structural Transformation and Economic Growth (STEG) of which the two persons I met are the principals behind STEG. The CSAE committed to partnering with MakSOE to offer demand-driven policy advice to GoU and to continue mentoring young faculty and graduate students who are keen to climb the research radar.

The College also collaborated with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Uganda to undertake consultations for 2023 Human Development Report.

The College also got additional exemptions from ACCA Global for the Bachelor of Commerce students. Going forward, students graduating with the Bachelor of Commerce Accounting Option will get nine of the 13 courses required for full ACCA qualification.

The College hosted a breakfast meeting with a section of government agencies to deliberate on areas of mutual interest. This has resulted in MoUs with the Uganda Manufacturer’s Association, the Uganda Revenue Authority and the Kampala Capital City Authority. These initiatives will create platforms through which the parties will among other things:

  • pursue joint research, publishing research findings, write background policy papers, and promote outreach to the relevant state and non-state actors;
  • collaborate on knowledge transfer & staff exchange programs to impart more practical skills on both parties;
  • organize and participate in joint activities such as seminars, workshops and conferences aimed at imparting practical skills, knowledge transfer and re-tooling; and,
  • collaborate on the review and development of the CoBAMS curriculum to reflect more practical/workplace content for students.

This was in addition to a number of outreach activities that were undertaken by various Centers housed at the College. The Entrepreneurship and Innovations Center for example equipped PDM beneficiaries in Makerere North and Katanga with a range of skills in the areas of bookkeeping, marketing, financial management, etc. The Public Investment Management Center has over the course of the year trained over 120 public officials in various aspects of public investment management ranging from ideation and conceptualization to the more advanced economic and financial analysis of public investment projects. The Environment for Development Center undertook seven outreach activities in different parts of the country and organized three policy dialogues on climate change and the environment. The School of Statistics and Planning also cohosted an international conference on “Aging and Health of Older Persons in Sub-Saharan Africa’ in February 2023.

Researchers at the College won six new institutional research grants, and one staff member developed a new academic concept, which is currently under the process of patenting and copyrighting at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau. The College is also leading the process of the PDM Policy Labs and there are ongoing discussions with the Office of the Prime Minister to convert recommendations of the studies into policy actions.

Human resources capacity development and strengthening

Seventeen Colleagues were promoted to various ranks in the University service in the course of the year 2023. The College provided seven (05) in-house capacity development programs for the support and administrative staff and an orientation of newly appointed staff. Fifteen academic staff members are currently pursing doctorate degrees. Seven staff members acquired PhD qualifications while ten were promoted to various ranks in the University Service. The College also received eight new staff in the course of the year.

Team building sessions were organized for the Schools of Economics and Business, but at which strategic direction of the schools was deliberated. The College leadership organized a retreat to deliberate on the strategic human resources and quality assurance issues as a basis for shaping the future of the College.

Financing

In as much as resources are insufficient and a number of facilities require improvement, all outstanding financial obligations were offset in a timely manner.

Conclusion

I want to thank all my colleagues at the College, and the Management and Council, and indeed all our stakeholders. These milestones have been only possible because of all of you. We look forward to maintaining an environment where we can continue to aim higher and do more together.

Eria Hisali (PhD)
PRINCIPAL

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Business & Management

Makerere signs MoU with Leading Universities in East Africa

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In a historic move aimed at revolutionizing postgraduate education and research across East Africa, Makerere University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with five prominent universities. The agreement, formalized on May 24, 2024 brings together the University of Addis Ababa (AAU), the University of Rwanda (UR), Makerere University (Mak), Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and Jönköping University, Sweden.

The newly established collaboration seeks to address critical institutional constraints that have hindered the development of high-quality postgraduate programs. These constraints include a shortage of senior researchers and professors available for supervision, as well as limited funding for research. By pooling resources and expertise, the partnership aims to overcome these challenges and significantly improve the quality of postgraduate education and research output within the member institutions.

While signing the MoU on behalf of Makerere University, The Ag. Vice Chancellor, Prof. Umar
Kakumba emphasized the importance of leveraging collective strengths to enhance academic
excellence and research impact. He also expressed optimism that the collaboration will create
new opportunities for faculty and students to engage in cutting-edge research and contribute to addressing pressing societal challenges.

In Makerere University, the MoU will be implemented by the Departments of Policy and
Development Economics, School of Economics. The signing was witnessed by the Director of International Development Collaboration, at Jönköping University, Lars Hartvigson. He said his institution had been collaborating with the different universities and now sought to make this collaboration a joint venture between the six institutions.

Ag. Vice Chancellor, Prof. Umar Kakumba(3rd L) handing over the signed agreement to Dr. Susan Namirembe Kavuma, Head of Department -Policy and Development Economics. Extreme Left is Prof. Ibrahim Okumu Mike, the Dean of School of Economics.

Goals and Expected Outcomes

The overarching goal of this partnership is to enhance understanding of management and
economic sciences, equipping leaders in public and private sectors with the skills necessary to
drive national and regional growth and development. Specific objectives include:

  • Improving the quality of teaching and supervision in postgraduate programs.
  • Increasing research output among faculty members.
  • Enhancing the utilization of research findings by policymakers in both the public and private sectors.

To achieve these objectives, the partnership has outlined a series of activities, including:

  • Staff exchanges for teaching and supervision roles in postgraduate programs.
  • Student exchanges to participate in training offered by the member universities.
  • Joint research projects and publications.
  • Collaborative research dissemination through conferences and workshops.
  • External examination of PhD and master’s courses by faculty from partner institutions.
  • Capacity-building seminars for staff.
  • Development and delivery of customized short courses.
  • Information exchange on research opportunities and publications.
  • Joint grant proposal writing aligned with the partnership’s objectives.

A Unified Vision for Regional Development
Prof. Eria Hisali, the Principal Of the College of Business and Management Sciences, emphasized the significance of this partnership: “This MoU marks a pivotal moment for higher
education in East Africa. By leveraging our collective strengths, we aim to create a robust
educational framework that not only elevates academic standards but also fosters socio-economic development across the region.”
The partnership is poised to create a dynamic and integrated educational ecosystem, promoting excellence in research and higher education. As the universities embark on this collaborative journey, they set a precedent for regional cooperation and intellectual advancement, ultimately contributing to the broader goals of national and regional development.

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