During the review of the BecA-Sweden partnership programmes at the BecA-ILRI Hub in November 2013, Gity Berhavan, Senior Research Advisor/First Secretary: Regional Research Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Kenya, expressed her thoughts on Sweden’s contribution to research for development in Africa and specifically about the partnership with the BecA-ILRI Hub.
Sweden’s strategy for development cooperation with Africa, especially in the area of research, is to align itself with the African agenda. For example, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) agenda is to increase the productivity of the food and agricultural systems in Africa.
Partnering with the BecA-ILRI Hub (or BecA) is a strategic way of tapping into the wider African science agenda. The BecAILRI Hub is an African initiative that responds to this agenda by bringing together different national agricultural research institutions in collaborative research based on regional and national priorities, for the improvement of livestock and crop production.
By supporting BecA, the Swedish government is able to provide funding to increase the capacity of an array of African institutions to conduct high end agricultural research. A case in point BecA’s programme to increase the use of bioinformatics to mine genomics and metagenomics data for the development of disease diagnostics tools. Through this programme, the knowledge and capacity in bioinformatics which is already at Hub is being extended to other institutions in the region, ensuring the sustainability of research in that area. The African Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) is another exciting programme which is giving early career scientists in Africa access to training and skills that will enable them to design and lead bigger research projects on their own.
The highlight of the review, however, has been getting acquainted with the kind of research and capacity building alliances the BecA-ILRI Hub is building that are not limited to ‘south-south’, ‘north-south’ but also ‘south-south-north’ collaborations. These broad partnerships are what 21st Century research needs in order to find timely solutions to the challenges of global food insecurity.
Going forward, we would like to see the BecA-ILRI Hub engage more with policy makers and institutions responsible for the development of national Masters and PhD programmes curriculum development. A paradigm shift from training scholars for employment, to training scientists who will create jobs through innovative research will greatly accelerate development in the region.
We would also wish to see the constitution of the BecA advisory panel as laid out in the new BecA-ILRI Hub Business plan for 2013-2018. This panel will play a very critical role in providing dynamic strategic direction in the selection of projects and partners in the future.