Welcome to the University of Africa, at Toru-Orua (UAT), one of Africa’s youngest institutions, having taken in its first cohort of undergraduate students in 2017. UAT, a State university with a strong focus on “internationalisation” represents a new way of providing and managing higher education, combining the benefits of strong State support with private sector entrepreneurial thinking. Its commitment to internationalisation is amply reflected in its curricular structure, partnerships with carefully selected institutions in other parts of the world and the composition of both its faculty and students. Its bold but achievable mission is to become a shining example of how, through good governance and stewardship and leveraging carefully selected strategic partnerships, high quality education which is responsive to both the needs of the local community and the continent can be achieved. Its small but growing contingent of highly qualified faculty, drawn from various parts of the world is a strong indication that it is seriously committed to its major objective to not be a university for students just drawn from a specific region or population group but to rebuild the international stature previously enjoyed by some of the old universities on the continent and to attract both staff and students from diverse backgrounds. To that end, nothing has been spared in ensuring that we also provide a first-class, modern living and working environment for all who are part of this young institution. To ensure that the academic engagement of our students takes place at a level consistent with international standards, all first year studies include a “foundation” component, designed to enhance our students' competencies in numeracy, use of new learning technologies and communication skills, as well as some important basic life-skills widely found to be missing among many graduates from universities within our region.
While the university has already received approval for a wide range of degree programs, including Business, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences and Law, because of its location in an area that enjoys a high level of production of a wide variety of agricultural products, its Faculty of Agriculture is destined to become a flagship program designed to strengthen that sector of the economy – agriculture, food production and processing. The presence of a cassava-processing plant nearing completion at its doorstep is testimony to the desire to achieve these forward and backward economic linkages. The “UAT Farms Ltd” enterprise is a fully operational commercial farming enterprise which is ratcheting up to supply poultry and poultry products, as well as a range of horticultural products to a number of major institutions and consumer outlets in the region. In addition to creating employment for members of the local community, it is also to serve as a training facility to provide extension services to the local community.
Similarly, the recent establishment of a Centre for Cancer Research is intended to add a strong practical and research element to some of the work expected to come out of our College of Health Sciences and to focus on some of the types of cancers commonly found in this region. Discussions for formal partnerships with selected leading cancer research centers in the Middle East and the United States, are already at an advanced stage. These partnerships will allow our students and staff access to some of the highly qualified personnel already working at those partner institutions and their world class facilities, thus again, giving our work an international focus and aiming for international standards while addressing local problems.
Even in this nascent phase of our development, instruction in many disciplinary areas is infused with the notion of gaining knowledge, not just for employment, but for creativity and entrepreneurship. The university has committed itself to the creation of a series of programs and activities outside the classroom, to support entrepreneurial initiatives among our students. Plans are afoot for annual competitions to provide further motivation and impetus to these initiatives.
I invite you to “watch this space” as we continue with our mission to build a new kind of university that should become an important model for Africa.
Professor Kingston Nyamapfene