The RUFORUM biennial conference and 5th African Higher Education week are events held every two years, to bring together higher education stakeholders, including postgraduate students. The focus is to build momentum for rural transformation and to discuss strategies for strengthening the African higher education sector and linking them more closely with economic development. The conference theme was “linking agricultural universities with civil society, the private sector, governments and other stakeholders in support of agricultural development in Africa”.
Stephen Tashobya, one of the Innovators at RAN who is working on the ‘Wekebere’ Innovation (a hand-held self-diagnostic device that will help mothers or pregnant women to monitor the state of their unborn babies irrespective of their location and without need for help of medical personnel. The device consists of a small probe and micro controller) was privileged to participate in this conference. To kick start the conference was social media training on October 15-16, 2016 with the idea of enabling the students to gain soft skills to be able to communicate their science. This would also allow innovators and researchers to bridge the gap between them and the people they are innovating for. For ‘Wekebere’ Innovator’s view about this training click the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQUS_Mfeebo.
On October 17, 2016, conference participants visited Stellenbosch University where graduate students presented to them their projects and research. They also visited the university facilities including the underground library, engineering labs and workshops Footprinthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsXR_bJl_BA.
On October 18, 2016, Dr. Patel the Founder of RUFORUM presented to the conference participants highlighting the importance of comradeship. She added “None of you is an island and you cannot succeed as an individual, no matter how bright you are, you need others”. She also encouraged participants to collaborate and persevere in order to realize success.
October19 2016 saw the top 15 young African entrepreneurs including ‘Wekebere’ present their projects to the audience. After all had presented, each received a token of appreciation worth $2,000 handed over by HE Dr. Nkosazana Zuma Chairperson African Union Commission. Participants were later hosted to a lunch business meeting with potential funders and stakeholders from the industry sector. From this meeting, the MasterCard Foundation team among other stakeholders showed interest in the ‘Wekebere’ innovation and promised to contact the innovators through RUFORUM.
Side events followed on October 20, 2016 where the innovator working on the ‘Wekebere’ Innovation participated in the ‘Positive Youth Development and Experiential Learning in University Outreach’ and ‘Innovations in Higher Education’. “These two sessions were very beneficial because we learnt skills of how further fully engage the target communities” Stephen shared.
October 21 was the awards day when certificates were given out to several conference participants.