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Realisation of Chalmers' initiative in East Africa through SWEAFUN

News: Dec 02, 2022

To strengthen partnerships and contribute to sustainable development in strategically chosen areas were on the agenda when university leaders and leading researchers from 11 universities and 7 countries came together for a strategic and scientific workshop in Kigali 14–17 November.

Workshop in KigaliSWEAFUN workshop participants. Front row: President and CEO of Chalmers, Vice Chancellor of University of Rwanda, Rwandan Minister of Education and Swedish Ambassador to Rwanda. Photo: Prince Munyakuri

The high-level meeting generated strong engagement among participants when the SWEAFUN (Sweden-East Africa University Network) workshop was held at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Centre by co-hosts Chalmers University of Technology and University of Rwanda, upon initiative by Chalmers’ President and CEO. Already in the planning phase the initiative received a lot of interest. From Chalmers alone the delegation consisted of 14 people including the President and CEO, Stefan Bengtsson.

“I am happy that we are now connecting closer to some of the most excellent universities in East Africa, universities that we already have extensive collaboration with. East Africa is a region in rapid development, a region that is trained in taking new knowledge into societal use. I think we are all looking forward to the mutual learning that will come out of this collaboration” Stefan explains. “Combining scientific excellence with collaborative spirit and close relations to society is something we often refer to as the DNA of Chalmers, this workshop is perfectly in line with that spirit. A way of ensuring that the scientific knowledge we create makes a difference in practical terms” he continues.

Participating universities were Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and University of Nairobi (Kenya), Makerere University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Uganda), Sokoine University of Agriculture and The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (Tanzania), and University of Gothenburg (Sweden). Participants contributed proactively to the joint exploration of collaboration in six thematic areas: Air Quality, Data Driven ICT, Food and Nutritional Health, Sustainable Energy Innovations, Fresh Water Quality, and Sustainable Transport.

The fruitful discussions resulted in action plans for each area developed by leading researchers as well as a strategic roadmap developed jointly by the university leaders.

“What makes this initiative unique are the bottom-up efforts at the core which in turn need to be anchored in top-down strategies, for achieving truly sustainable collaboration and partnerships” says Project Manager Daniela Michael, who has driven and developed this project from the start in 2019 (back when it was only an idea). “The trans-thematic considerations and innovative approaches to utilisation, as well as real world applications and solutions, means a great potential for the collaboration to actually contribute towards Agenda 2030” Daniela continues.

Stefan BengtssonAll in all, 85 participants attended the workshop. The Rwandan Minister of Education emphasised scientific knowledge to address complex challenges facing the whole world and the Vice Chancellor of University of Rwanda stated that "No university can make it alone" (Government to assist varsity students turn research ideas into solutions - The New Times).

President and CEO of Chalmers signing the Memorandum of Understanding. Photo: Prince Munyakuri

SWEAFUN received recognition also by other distinguished guests in attendance, for instance from the African Development Bank, Inter-University Council for East Africa, SDG Center for Africa, SDSN Great Lakes, the Swedish Ambassador to Rwanda, and STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education). The high-level event prompted a press conference following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and finalisation of a strategic roadmap for coming years.

SWEAFUN is coordinated since 2020 within Global Sustainable Futures (GSF) at the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development.

“It was great to see the researchers' clear engagement in the thematic working groups and we now look forward to promoting more educational components of the network so we can bring the next generation to collaborate on sustainable development" says Magdalena Eriksson, Director of GSF.

More about SWEAFUN

Although the workshop was postponed in 2020, due to the Covid pandemic, an application was submitted and granted 2021 through the STINT Strategic Grants for Internationalisation programme thanks to the interest and efforts that had already been established among the universities (at leadership- and researcher level). The 3-year STINT project started shortly after and with ambitions beyond 2024. If you are interested in SWEAFUN and collaborating with East African universities, please contact Daniela Michael, Project Manager daniela.michael@chalmers.se.

BY: Daniela Michael

Page Manager: Webbredaktionen|Last update: 6/11/2020
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