Posted on November 30, 2017
Prof Lemma Senbet, Executive Director of the African Economics Research Consortium (AERC), closed the twelfth annual shared-facility training programme for the Collaborative Master of Science in Agricultural and Applied Economics (CMAAE) at the University of Pretoria (UP). During her closing, she reminded the 82 young graduates of the significant investment made by the AERC, its funders and the team of dedicated lecturers and academics. The programme brings together students from 16 African universities, and has ranked UP as one of the best institutions engaged in the initiative. This makes UP the facility of choice for this continental capacity-building programme.
Since 2006, the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development has hosted between 80 and 90 master's students a year, amounting to a total of more than 1 000 students. Teaching staff are selected annually through a competitive process and include UP staff, colleagues from universities across the continent and various international researchers. This year, the programme included eight UP lecturers, and colleagues from Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Australia. The 2017 cohort also included students from seven countries, 41% of whom were women.
The student representative, Christopher Titan Chikowi from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi, summed the year up by saying that it was 'a journey packed with experience and knowledge – an experience that has sharpened our minds and given us a deeper understanding in the areas of specialisation studied.' He appreciated having been able to learn from the module content and from engaging with students from different countries.
Prof André Louw, from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at UP, praised the enthusiasm, participation, diligence and hard work of the 2017 cohort.
Dr Willy-Marcel Ndayitwayeko, from the University of Burundi, expressed his gratitude to the AERC for the opportunity to teach the bright students, and to the Department for the warm reception and comradery during his time at UP. He was most impressed with the facilities provided by UP, including the beautifully clean environment and the available technology which enhanced teaching.
Prof Eric Mungatana, speaking on behalf of the Head of the Department, urged the graduates to apply to study for a PhD at UP.
The inclusion of a pilot blended learning delivery system, through a platform provided by the AERC, further contributed to making 2017 a memorable year. Dr Selma Karuaihe, a senior lecturer in Environmental Economics at UP, and CMAAE alumna, was involved in organising the course, which relied on an online discussion forum and hour-long collaborative chat sessions. This learning approach involved student teams preparing and presenting videos for a case study assignment that compared experiences on environmental issues in their respective countries. Dr Karuaihe said: 'As the facilitator, I learnt a lot from the students.'
Prof Senbet concluded the session by thanking the AERC for partnering with UP. He noted that the programme is a significant investment in capacity building for sustained African development. He reflected on the enormous unmet demand for skills and capacity for informed policy-making, which is essential for economic growth, social development and poverty reduction in Africa. He declared that Africa needs more graduates like the 2017 cohort, and said that the investment in these young people will have a multiplying effect across the continent.
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