Vice-Chancellor hails success story as programme celebrates second Cambridge-Africa Day.

The Cambridge-Africa Programme is now something embedded in the University’s DNA.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Sir Leszek Borysiewicz

Talks covering work on tackling the ebola outbreak to supporting young scholars formed part of the Cambridge-Africa Day 2015.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz highlighted the importance to the University of its unique research capacity-building initiative.

“The speed with which the Cambridge-Africa Programme has developed is phenomenal. We are trusted by our partners, and the programme has buy-in from our academic community. This has been essential to the programme’s success. Today, it is no longer something done by a handful of enthusiasts. It is now something embedded in the University’s DNA,” said the Vice-Chancellor.

His remarks echoed the words of Professor David Dunne, founder and director of the Cambridge-Africa Programme, who had earlier expressed his aspiration that, in the future, “partnership with, and support for, African research institutions will be a core part of the University’s work.”

Setting the scene for a day of presentations by researchers involved in collaborative projects, Prof Dunne identified one of the challenges facing research institutions across the African continent: “There is an insufficiency of internationally competitive researchers to mentor and train the young talent, and to accelerate Africa’s success.”

“The Cambridge-Africa Programme aims to tackle that mentorship gap, while avoiding the dependency and loss of indigenous talent that so often occurs when better opportunities are available outside of Africa to African researchers.”

The morning session included presentations by researchers from Cambridge and from African partner institutions involved in the Cambridge-Africa Programme. Subjects ranged from the transmission of disease between fruit bats and humans in Ghana, to the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices in southern Tanzania, to the link between conservation and tourism in Uganda’s national parks.

The afternoon’s keynote speaker, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, described some of the recent developments in governance, health and education:

“There are some very good things happening in Sub-Saharan Africa –and in Rwanda in particular. Those stories must be told by voices that have credibility and knowledge. We would like Cambridge to be our partner in capturing and analysing these changes even as they happen.”

Afternoon sessions focused on ways in which Cambridge and African scientists support each other to produce excellent science. Dr Dan Masigo, of Kenya’s International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, described the collaboration within the THRiVE (Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence) initiative.

Professor Allison Elliott, of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), discussed the work carried out by the MUII partnership, which involves Cambridge, UVRI, Makerere University, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Irene Tamajong, UK director of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences-Next Einstein Initiative, reminded the audience of the strength of AIMS’ links to Cambridge, and the shared interest in research excellence.

Later, Helen Pennant, Director of the Cambridge Trust, emphasised the role of scholarships in building research capacity –with specific reference to the cohort of newly arrived Cambridge Trust scholars from Sub-Saharan Africa. In one of the day’s final presentations, Professor Ian Goodfellow shared his experiences of working in Sierra Leone at the height of the most recent Ebola epidemic.

The well-attended event at St John’s College reflected the burgeoning awareness, within the University and beyond, of the various initiatives comprising the Cambridge-Africa Programme. In its variety, the audience of students, researchers, administrators, funders and partner organisations embodied the African saying quoted by the Vice-Chancellor in his opening address: “If you want to travel fast, then travel alone. If you want to go far, then travel together.”


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