Riding on the theme, “Investing in Research and Innovating for Society”, the Sida Annual Review meeting took place last week from 10th - 14th October 2016 at Makerere University. The meeting was intended to review the progress of the current Sida collaboration with Makerere that started in 2015 and ending in 2020. The meeting was also an opportunity to showcase the impact oriented research conducted at Makerere. The current collaboration is unique that beside Makerere University and Swedish collaborating institutions, four public universities (Kyambogo University, Gulu University, Mbarara University of Science and Technology and Busitema University) in Uganda are on board.
The meeting organised by the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training was opened by the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda, H.E. Per Lindgarde. Members of the University Management led by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu, staff and students attended. The opening ceremony was followed by presentation from Sida funded researchers to show case impact oriented research.
The current cooperation agreement will bring in about 275 million SEK (USD32million to support 17 research teams in the Uganda public universities purposed to improve the environment for research and training. During the next five years 125 PhD students, 147 MA students, and 65 post-doc fellows will be trained. As opposed to the previous collaboration projects between Sida and Makerere, the bulk of the recruited PhD student will be trained at Makerere University (105 PhD students). Only 20 PhDs are going on sandwich dependant on capacity need. This is testimony that research capacity has been greatly strengthened since 2000 when Sida support began.
In his introductory remarks, Professor Mukadasi Buyinza, the Director of Research and Graduate Training welcomed participants to the meeting and thanked the Royal Government of Sweden for the support given to Makerere since 2000. He noted that the Swedish government has invested 515million SEK (USD$ 73 million) into graduate training and improvement of scientific environments for Uganda, Makerere University receiving the bulk of the support.
Emphasising the importance of national experts in solving societal problems, Prof. Buyinza said, ‘Local challenges require local responses. And for this, each country needs its own experts, its own problem formulations, and its own knowledge production – an intellectual autonomy’. Raising of national specialists and experts is a major premise of the Makerere/Sida collaboration. He highlighted the achievements of Makerere from the support received from Sweden thus; ‘through the Uganda-Sweden research cooperation has contributed to the enhancement of Makerere University’s visibility, ranking (needless to re-assert that we are 3rd in Africa) and performance, thereby positioning Makerere University at the forefront of the global knowledge economy; creation of an environment conducive to high quality relevant research through investment in human resource development, ICT, library resources, laboratory and field site infrastructure’. Over the last 15 years of the Sida support, over 200 PhDs have been realised at Makerere alone which greatly enhances the teaching, learning and research at the institution. Prof. Buyinza also pointed out challenges affecting Makerere and other public universities including: lack of adequate financing, low level of basic research funding and decreasing government subvention towards research.
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu welcomed all participants to the meeting. He reiterated Makerere’s appreciation of the bi-lateral collaboration with Sida which has enhanced the university’s visibility on the continent and globally as a result of the increased research output. Prof. Ddumba also said that we are greatly indebted to the Royal Government of Sweden and its people for funding given over the years since 2000. The vice chancellor also thanked the Government of Uganda for providing an enabling environment and agreeing to the current programme running from 2015 to 2020. Prof. Ddumba Ssentamu welcomed H.E. Per Lindgarde, the new Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda noting that this was his first visit to Makerere and function attended since arrival in Uganda. The Vice Chancellor invited the ambassador to present his remarks and open the meeting.
In his remarks H.E. Lindgarde, expressed his pleasure to open the first Annual Review Meeting in the current Sweden/Uganda collaboration with support to public universities. He underscored the belief by the Royal Government of Sweden in supporting capacity development in higher institutions of learning; emphasising that the importance of collaboration between Ugandan universities and those from Sweden. He said, ‘the interest is indeed mutual’. H.E. Lindgarde pointed out the unique nature of the Swedish support strategy, ‘based on funding institution building, post-graduate education, and research in one single effort. No part can function without the others. It is a holistic approach’.
The ambassador opened the meeting reiterating that, ‘this meeting will hopefully demonstrate a key Swedish government position: that research cooperation is building a long term commitment beyond aid - a collaboration focused on scientific cooperation on equal footing between partners’. He wished Makerere University and partners much success with the Annual Review Meeting and the Science Day.