The increasing complexity and dynamic nature of agribusiness in Africa demands equally flexible responses in agribusiness teaching and learning. The use and conservation of natural resources has consequences not just for agriculture but for the social and economic welfare of humanity as a whole. At the heart of optimal agricultural production is the generation and application of knowledge that delicately balances the need to feed the world with sustainable exploitation of natural resources.
A cross-section of participants at the curriculum development workshop held in Mombasa, Kenya, in January 2012
Institutions of higher education in Africa, research institutions and the private sector are key players in this complex system of agricultural production – especially agribusiness – with regard to generation and application of knowledge.
ANAFE recognizes that unless curricula at institutions of higher learning in Africa resonate with the needs and realities in the continent, the whole concept of agribusiness with falter; if this vital component fails to tick, then the entire system will be dysfunctional at best.
ANAFE has therefor been at the forefront of championing curriculum reform in agribusiness in Africa to ensure that in both content and delivery it accords with the practical realities of the day. The ability to draw on its wide network of agricultural, agroforestry and natural resources experts positions ANAFE is strategically placed to influence the processes of change in Agribusiness training in Africa.
In collaboration with other partners in the University, Business, Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) an initiative ANAFE has put in place mechanisms to address structural and implementation challenges associated with agribusiness curricula development mainly through:
- Agribusiness curriculum reform;
- Influencing agribusiness teaching methods and tools;
- Analyzing of strengths and weaknesses of agribusiness education;
- Facilitating learning and sharing lessons and best practices in using agribusiness incubators to improve agribusiness education;
- Promoting the universities’ interests in commercializing their inventions and
- enhancing university-industry interactions.
One significant output of these processes is a draft agribusiness curriculum which was jointly developed by scholars, agribusiness professionals and stakeholders during a curriculum development workshop held in Kenya early last year and is about to enter its validation process.
The new curriculum is informed by the need to address the:
- weak internship programmes in most universities;
- poor attitude towards agribusiness by prospective students;
- mismatch between the employers’ perspectives and the knowledge and skills being imparted to the graduates;
- replication of the European models of agribusiness education which do not take into account local realities;
- duplication of courses in agriculture and agribusiness at some Universities.
These issues were addressed concurrently with a survey conducted by ANAFE which also revealed many shortcomings in the content and delivery of existing curricula that threatened to undermine the value of agribusiness training. However, thanks to UniBRAIN, the new curriculum is expected to make a significant contribution to improving agribusiness training in Africa. Watch this space for more news from ANAFE with thanks to its member institutions and Danida.