Biosciences, enabled through capacity building, can unleash the next generation of ideas, knowledge, businesses, and leaders in African agriculture.
Capacity building is a process of expanding and fortifying knowledge, skills, and resources for individuals and organizations in order to fully prepare them for uncertainties in the world. It emerged as an important issue during the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week and FARA General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda.
Training scientists and strengthening the capacity of organizations can deliver on the targets of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA – 2024), Agenda 2063, and the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A). STISA -2024 seeks to hasten Africa’s transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy, while Agenda 2063 sets out the future aspirations of African countries. S3A makes the case for using science in every possible way to drive African agriculture. Change based on sound science creates a knowledge economy, which in turn fuels the creativity and builds human capacity. This will lead to political, economic, and social transformation.
Rwanda, the host country for the Science Week, has made great strides in its capacity building initiatives as discussed in presentations by its highest ranking officials. It was encouraging to observe that the Government of Rwanda is committed to the strategies laid out in STISA – 2024. Rwanda’s leaders, including its Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana – prove that capacity building leads to a career with lasting impact. Dr. Mukeshimana’s career track prior to her appointment as Minister of Agriculture shows that she is a scientist, who has worked as a researcher at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI Hub) in Nairobi, Kenya.
Capacity building pays dividends not only to the individual but to the country’s national agricultural research systems. Rwanda’s Vision 2020 comprises six interwoven pillars, including good governance and an efficient state, skilled human capital, a vibrant private sector, a world-class physical infrastructure and a modern agriculture and livestock sector, and is focused on building national, regional and global markets. This is clearly a need for many African countries as they explore ways to apply science to their daily routines. Capacity building will ensure that the future generations can lead change on the continent – change that is only as good as the capacity building initiatives that are invested in its human resources.
In a video interview with a social media reporter, Dr Appolinaire Djikeng, the Director of BeCA-ILRI in Kenya, said his team’s work in biosciences on the continent is aligned with S3A and seeks to build the capacity of scientists and organizations. He also emphasized that science was too important to be outsourced by any country with a desire to be world-class. Africa should play its part in the use of cutting-edge technologies such as biosciences to provide solutions to interdisciplinary problems. Given the number of scientists and organizations that have benefitted from the Hub’s activities, biosciences are already contributing to scientific transformation, with positive impacts for the new industries that Africa needs. This momentum should continue so as to make a lasting impact. Capacity building (at whatever level) will speed up the implementation of S3A.