Today, many of the most transformative business models and technology solutions are coming from the African continent and African Universities are well positioned to support their national governments in fostering scientific research and innovations to address development challenges in Africa while improving development outcomes. The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) led by Makerere University in partnership with George Washington University, Stanford University and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has developed a university platform comprised of 18 university partners in sub-Saharan Africa and established four Resilience Innovation Labs (RILabs) in East, West, South and the Horn of Africa to address key challenges to creating sustainable communities through science, technology and policy development and implementation.
Running through June 23-24, 2017, Makerere University School of Public Heath- RAN convened 35 Policy developers, implementers researchers and University faculty at the RAN Innovation Lab participating in the African Resilience Summit. The Summit participants were from Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa and USA covering RAN’s activity operational countries. The African Resilience Summit was a dais which brought together national and regional African policy makers to discuss development challenges and identify where and when RAN’s resilience analytical and measurement framework can be meaningfully applied in efforts to address African community challenges.
Discussions during this Summit will contribute to the scaling of resilience measurement capacity at the national and regional levels directed towards addressing key development challenges to creating sustainable communities. It is also fulfilling to note that through-out the two days deliberations, participants further;
1) Gained a deeper understanding and prioritization of development challenges in Africa;
2) better and faster identified the most helpful tools, policies and technologies that address these development challenges;
3) better understood these tools, policies, technologies, and their applicability to our day-to-day operations; and
4) better translated and applied resilience solutions for positive impact in the communities we serve and live in.
This was also an opportunity for the Summit participants to share about the most pressing community challenges in Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa while referencing to the RAN resilience innovation approach guiding the way forward towards addressing these challenges. More so each country delegates were able to work with the respective RILabs to develop a strategy for incorporating and scaling the RAN framework on resilience, DP, and innovations in their government programs
Summarily, Uganda’s economy heavily relies on Agriculture and Tourism with challenges of lack of capacity and in adequate climate adaptation. It was however noted that there is need for diverse multidisciplinary capacity building in the country which gap the RAN as a network can ably fill. The Government of Uganda is also trying to come up with a resilience innovation Hub to manage the Innovation needs of the country and RAN can take advantage of this too for further growth. These is therefore need to deeply understand what all the opportunities are and take advantage of the same for the betterment of the lives of communities we serve and live in.
Advanced effects of climate change in Ethiopia were also highlighted sharing the fact that livestock raring is one of the key community activities for the Ethiopian population. Additionally, Agriculture and Forestry are some of the dominant community activities in the region calling for more interventions to address challenges hindering their prosperity. Under the Horn of Africa Resilience Innovation Lab, the Somalia Hub had engaged in different research activities generating a lot of informative data from which Governments can benefit.
For the case of Ghana, due to rapid urbanization and slum management related challenges, stress is exerted on the infrastructure. Country policies need be more inclusive in nature for the benefit of all and realization of development. Also, key to note were the successful Deliberative Polling (DP) sessions (community consultation method) in Ghana. DP can also be tapped into and scaled more for Government benefit.
Social protection, unemployment challenges for the youth and food insecurity issues were shared for South Africa. Key question here was whether unemployment was due to unskilled labour, tendency of the youth to under look some job positions or other reasons.
RAN’s approach to resilience strengthening using innovative solutions was then shared stressing community centeredness in all the activities RAN is engaged in. In addition, it was highlighted that RAN applies a systems approach to strengthening & measuring resilience at individual, household and community level. In terms of obtaining innovations, the RAN team sources for innovative solutions through 3 major ways; Innovation Exhibitions to select from existing solutions, Requests for Applications (RFAs) and Collaboratively brainstorming and inventing innovative approaches, ideas and solutions to address community challenges.
Overall, it was during this Summit where participants shared about who should benefit from RAN’s approach, agreeing to collaborate as together we can all achieve, leverage from what each one is doing and improve lives in the communities. They also considered the need to dig deeper into and grasp the RAN resilience approach to benefit the different Government departments. In addition, the four RAN Resilience Innovation Labs too needed to more rigorously complete the process of identifying and coining what the labs have to sell to the different government departments so as to clearly state the role of Universities in serving the communities in Ethiopia, Somalia, Ghana, South Africa and Uganda among others. The need for government to include communities’ voices into their work was also strongly emphasized. Participants also noted that there was need for Governments to tap into RAN’s household resources including piloted tools, Policy Briefs, resilience data, transformative innovations, multi-disciplinary human resource among others for better service delivery.
Dr. Abel Rwendeire, Deputy Chairman National Planning Authority (NPA) Uganda while executing his other duties stopped by Makerere University School of Public Health Annex-Resilient Africa Network (RAN). Dr. Rwendeire is also the head of the Makerere University Visitation Committee appointed by his Excellency the President of Uganda and are currently looking at the different activities at Makerere University and proposing how to better place the University upholding its Moto- ‘We Build for the Future’. ‘By executing the duties of the Visitation Committee, we are putting efforts together to bring the University Moto to the people’Dr. Rwendeire noted. While at the RAN Innovation Lab, he had an opportunity to physically engage with the Africa Resilience Summit participants. He noted that by doing what they are currently doing, Prof. William Bazeyo and team are already Building for the Future through supporting the identification, development and scaling of innovative solutions to address communities most pressing challenges. Dr. Rwendeire was in the company of Dr. Kisolo, a Physist and Eng. Gerald Lumu, currently engaged in Industrial Production of some interesting things (taking knowledge from the Universities and translating it into service delivery in industries). Dr. Rwendeire argued the African Resilience Summit participants to further engage in bringing more experience to Uganda so that the country develops a little faster. ‘Knowledge is in abundancy but knowledge only becomes useful once shared with colleagues, I am happy that knowledge sharing is what I have witnessed happening in this room, please keep it up’ he strongly shared.
In his closing remarks, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party emphasized the fact that ‘Nations develop from knowledge re-echoing Dr. Rwendeire’s remarks that knowledge if not shared, is useless. Universities have a key role to play in development of the communities we serve given the fact that the training community workers receive from these Universities determines the way they offer the service after graduating from these institutions’. The need for Governments to collaborate in efforts directed towards addressing community challenges and strengthening resilience is vital as a way forward.
Details shared on Twitter @AfricaResilient #ResilienceSumnmit.
Link to the Speech by Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor and RAN Patron who graced the Summit as Chief Guest and also officially opened the discussions at the African Resilience Summit.