Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Kataaha Museveni, represented by the State Minister for Primary Education Dr. Joyce M. Kaducu, has this morning Monday 9th May 2022 officially opened the International Conference commemorating over two decades of research cooperation between Uganda and Sweden.
Present at the opening ceremony were the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, Dr. Monica Musenero, the Head Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Uganda, Mr. Ola Hällgren, the Chairperson of Makerere University Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara, the Vice-Chancellor Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and the First Secretary Research Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden, Dr. Gity Behravan. The session was moderated by the Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training and Overall Programme Coordinator for the Sida-Makerere University Cooperation, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi
On behalf of the Government of Uganda, the Minister thanked the Royal Government of Sweden for the unconditional and generous support towards the advancement of research and innovations in Ugandan institutions of higher learning. To date, there have been four consecutive research agreement periods with the total support of SEK 813M (USD 116M). Initially started with Makerere and a few Swedish Universities, the collaboration has grown over the years to include more than 17 Swedish Universities and four other Ugandan Public universities. These are Kyambogo University, Busitema University, Gulu University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology.
“Two decades of Swedish support have greatly improved our research culture and through the numerous research projects conducted, the Government of Uganda has been able to formulate well-informed policies that will lead to sustainable development,” said Janet Museveni.
The Minister further reiterated the government’s commitment to continue supporting initiatives aimed at promoting research and innovation development.
“Government has made a significant impact through the Presidential Initiative on Science and Technology. The President committed UGX 25 billion to support research and innovations in science-based colleges at Makerere University,” she said, adding that this was supplemented in 2020 with the establishment of the research and innovations fund at Makerere University, with an annual budget support of UGX.30billion.
“The fund illustrates the increasing importance that the government of Uganda attaches to research and innovation as a driver for socio-economic transformation,” she added.
The First Lady noted that whereas this successful research partnership is scheduled to come to an end after 30th June 2022, Ugandan universities lost much of their research and academic calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating a structured recovery plan.
“Our prayer is that this great partnership can be renewed for purposes of continuity and sustainability of our joint achievements. This renewal of our Research Cooperation Agreement for another five years would enable the Universities successfully recover from the adverse effects of the pandemic,” the Minister implored.
On behalf of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI), Dr. Musenero, pledged to ensure that the capacity built by the research collaboration between Swedish and Ugandan universities would be put to good use in line with national development priorities.
“Transformation of research into enterprise remains a core target of my Ministry, and in this regard, the government has committed funds to enable researchers to continue doing research. Examples include the research and innovation fund at Makerere and the research and innovation fund at MoSTI.
“Embracing innovation is not only critical to the future of our economy but also key to improving the wellbeing of our society. We have the advantage of building on world-leading research already carried out in our universities,” said Dr. Musenero.
She called upon Makerere and other public universities to review and integrate the innovation and cluster component into academic programmes and partner with business development and research institutions such as Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) to establish a local technology and resource centre. Such initiatives, she noted, would help universities effectively incubate clusters, nurture product innovation, enhance product quality and stimulate enterprise growth.
On behalf of the Swedish Embassy, Mr. Ola Hällgren noted that in addition to the research and innovation outputs, solid relationships with the capacity to outlive the duration of the programme have been built between Swedish and Ugandan researchers and institutions. “The cooperation has indeed been successful in terms of developing capacity both at institutional and individual levels and has contributed to both university and national policies in different sectors.”
He highlighted some of the figures from the collaboration as; 263 Masters, over 400 PhDs and 85 Post-doctoral staff training from the five public universities, in addition to 98 small research grants awarded. Furthermore, quality assurance policies and structures for research and graduate training have been established at all collaborating Ugandan universities. Additionally, thematic multidisciplinary networks have also been set up with the aim of attracting new collaborators with new funding.
The Chairperson of Makerere University Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara, said the need for Makerere University to play a more deliberate and purposeful role in national development is more prominent than ever before, especially as the institution celebrates 100 years of existence with only 17 years left to the attainment of Vision 2040.
“This fast approaching national milestone requires Makerere to constantly refine her strategies and outputs to meet both current and emerging demands in Education, Agriculture, Industry, Health, Law and Science, among other spheres. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated to us that Uganda has the potential to address a number of its domestic needs and lay strategies to meet the needs of its citizens in the future,” remarked Mrs Magara.
On behalf of Makerere University, the Chairperson thanked President Museveni for endorsing Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), which has augmented the capacity built over two decades by the Uganda-Sweden Research Cooperation.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe thanked the Royal Government of Sweden for the support that has led to tremendous achievements in capacity development and research outputs with great impact on Makerere University and other communities in Uganda.
“Swedish government support has included PhD training at Makerere and four other public universities, facilitation of supervisors to do research with their counterparts in Sweden, Faculty research funds and independent university-wide research,” he said.
Prof. Nawangwe shared that the funding has also supported the improvement of research laboratories in units such as the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, the College of Health Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio Security. Support was also extended to the Geographical Information Systems and Cross-cutting Biomedical Laboratory, ICT Infrastructure and Library Services, as well as administrative costs for the programme.
Reiterating the Minister’s request for an additional phase of collaboration, the Vice-Chancellor said, “We all know that the support is supposed to be coming to its end but I will not tire to say, I think it is a bit too early and it does no harm to reconsider this decision”.