An agreement signed yesterday between the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the government of Sweden will see the University of Rwanda receive 31.5 billion RWF to boost research and use of scientific knowledge.
Running from 2019 to 2024, the programme will provide fully-funded research training for Masters and PhD students, as well as developing research infrastructure like ICT and the library at UR.
Under the grant, 80 students will enroll for PhD studies, some studying in Rwanda others in Sweden in 17 different academic fields, among them agriculture, rural transformation, infectious diseases, digital health, under-nutrition, peace and security, social work, bioenergy, waste management, water engineering and sustainable energy.
According to Charles Murigande, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Institutional Advancement, the current status of research in Rwanda at UR is not at the desired level as the proportion of academic staff with a PhD at UR stands at just 26 per cent, yet to be able to carry out good research, one needs to be trained at PhD level.
“If we add 80 PhD holders, that would be a significant contribution” said Murigande.
He said that the university is focusing on training more people to attain PhD level in order to create a big mass of people who can do research on issues affecting the country.
“Issues to be researched are abundant. Definitely even understanding the dynamics of poverty in our country and come up with original solutions to address those issues are very good research questions,” he said.
Jenny Ohlsson, Sweden’s Ambassador to Rwanda, said the program was going to be implemented in partnership with 15 Swedish universities that will train and supervise students both in Sweden and here in Rwanda.
“It aims to strengthen the research of high quality and relevance to poverty reduction and sustainable development,” she said.
According to Ohlsson, close to half of the funding will be dispersed directly to UR.
“We know that solutions to development challenges must always be owned by actors who are locally rooted in the development context that we work in,” she said.
“Our support to UR is to support knowledge generation in Rwanda and build capacity here that allows connection with international mainstream research in a two-way manner so that researchers from Rwanda can both contribute to it, and benefit from its networks,” she said.
She added that Rwanda’s aspirations to turn itself into a middle income country by 2035 and a high-income country by 2050 requires investments in many areas but most importantly, skills development, science, technology and innovation and this resonates very well with the objectives of supporting research.
Uzziel Ndagijimana the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said that 67 Rwandan students have graduated with a PhD from Swedish universities since Sweden started supporting research capacity building in Rwanda in 2002.
Dr Murigande said that the program will enable UR to start a PhD program locally which will be open to other Rwandans, who are able to finance their studies,
“At the end, we may produce more than 80 scholars which will be a contribution to the capacity of this country to do research,” he said.