KAMPALA – The United Nations Development Programme – UNDP, a United Nations agency tasked with helping countries eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth and human development has signed a development partnership with Makerere University as part of the Makerere@100 celebrations. The partnership is anchored on five strategic areas including, fostering innovation ecosystems in public universities, leveraging the role of universities in grassroots development, establishing a regular innovation expo as a platform for youth innovators to network and connect with venture capitalist and investors, promoting research on resilience, and strengthening gender equality in public institutions.
UNDP is partnering with universities to leverage Uganda’s vibrant public and private universities which have positioned Uganda as a centre of excellence of higher education within the Eastern and Central African region. Uganda has over 40 universities; 8 public, and the rest privately funded. Additionally, Uganda hosts about 33 science-related vocational and technical institutes.
In recent years, Ugandan public universities have recorded impressive results expanding their roles toward stimulating innovation and invention. These institutions now mirror the emerging global pattern characterised by the increasing convergence between science, technology and innovation while actively engaging in national development policies. An example of a university-led innovation is the Kiira Motors Corporation. Traced back to a vehicle design project by a group of students and supervisors at Makerere University, the now state-owned enterprise was established to undertake the commercialisation of the Kiira Electric Vehicle and to champion value addition in the domestic automotive industry for both job and wealth creation.
UNDP’s Strategic Plan prioritizes innovation as an enable for socio-economic transformation and sustainable development. Makerere University new Strategic Plan (2020/21-2030/31) aligns with UNDP’s development approach as embodied in the Makerere’s vision to transform into a “research-led” institution with a multi-discipline research agenda and enhanced engagement with industry and business sector.
As Makerere university commemorates 100 years of existence and launches a long-term agenda for the next century, UNDP has prioritized Makerere University to benefit from UNDP’s Pan African flagship initiative on “Fostering Innovation Ecosystems in Uganda’s Public Universities.”
Through the partnership signed, UNDP will specifically support Makerere University to establish a Model Innovation Pod/Hub. This will be financed through the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa’s initiative that was launched this year: “Timbuktoo”. This initiative aims to raise a $1 billion youth innovation financing facility for Africa with the intent to achieving. Over 10 years, 1,000 high-growth startup enterprises scaled across the continent; improving 50 million livelihoods; and creating value worth US $10 billion.
For Uganda, UNDP is establishing the University Innovation Hub/ Pod, 10 other African Countries are also beneficiaries.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University said they are well placed to host this innovation pod which would be interdisciplinary in nature bringing together students, academia, and partners from all fields of study to work on solving specific challenges.
“This initiative is seeking to transform public universities across Africa into spaces for innovation, experimentation, and accelerated learning. We hope that the UNDP partnership with Makerere University will reposition the University as transformative space of innovation, experimentation and accelerated learning instilled with the market-ready knowledge systems and technology infrastructure that matches the demands of the current and fast evolving digital economy.”
“Through this initiative, we expect to see a robust pipeline of startups from university student innovators, realignment of university objectives and student education with market needs, increased financial autonomy for Makerere University resulting from monetizing of Intellectual Property and equity in business spinoff from student innovation, increased resources for research-a consequence of its marketability, and finally the evolution of overall university curricular to suit employer needs via a “pull” rather than “push” effect,” he added.
The two are also rapidly moving into the implementation phase of the University Innovation Pod which they say will provide University Students with: Maker-Spaces that provide service to both engineering as well as creative design projects, with a standard set of equipment; a Design Lab that offer a host of programs in design thinking, and support students to apply design principles toward solving any problem they are tackling: Collaborative Working Spaces to enable students create business ideas and host product demos, training events, speaker talks, and other community and collaboration building events and a Technology Transfer Office to facilitate the transition from research and prototypes to the market.
UNDP support and partnership with Makerere University on Policy Labs will enable the implementation of the Parish Development Model based on sound evidence, analysis and targeting of beneficiaries which was launched by the President on 26th February 2022 in Kibuku District, Bukedi Sub Region.
Key activities supported through this support include profiling markets, enterprises, and community infrastructure and facilities; stakeholder mapping; data analysis and designing of innovative intervention; stakeholder consultations and participatory programming of intervention; designing of the National Roadmap for the implementation of the Parish Development and strategic implementation support.
As part of the Innovation Expo, UNDP will jointly host with Makerere University at the Freedom Square a 3-day Youth Innovation Expo to showcase UNDP’s work on the Youth, as well as innovations from Makerere University Students and Alumni. The aim is to foster youth collaboration and networking on innovative projects, and to create a platform for mobilization of investment, as well as advocacy for youth innovation and entrepreneurship.
Ms. Elsie Attafuah – Resident Representative, UNDP Uganda said that the move is to leverage Uganda’s vibrant public and private universities which have positioned the country as a centre of excellence for higher education within the Eastern and Central African Region.
“Institutions such as Makerere University now mirror the emerging global pattern characterizes by the increasing convergence between science, technology and innovation while actively engaging in national development policies.”
Ms. Elsie also said that they will be launching a National Resilience Think Tank and Research Agenda to gather evidence, generate knowledge, inform decision making and influence policy actions toward Uganda’s resilience strengthening.
“Through this National Resilience Think Tank and Research Agenda, we will address the existing knowledge gaps and transform and position NECOC as a more integrated and robust system to confront a wider range of disaster risks, including epidemics and pandemics.”
She added that, “UNDP will launch its Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions at Makerere University to further reinforce sustainability and acceleration of the gender equality agenda in Uganda’s public institutions. The UNDP Gender Equality Seal (GES) establishes minimum acceptable quality standards and provides a clear and detailed framework for guiding organizations in planning and implementing actions for gender mainstreaming.”
She commended the Government of Uganda for serving as UNDP’s principal partner in achieving Uganda’s development agenda.