3rd ESDA Consortium Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa

The ESDA Consortium recently held its annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, from 16-18 October to review the progress of work in its three program components – the three Masters Programs, the NGR project and the Africa Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative, and discuss long term plans for ESDA. The first day of the meeting was presided over by the current ESDA Chair, Professor Peter Mbiti, Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. The meeting also included a joint steering committee session with two AfDB representatives to review progress on the Bank’s funded activities and the state of mutual cooperation between the AfDB and the ESDA Consortium.  Dr Zenda Ofir, a South African evaluation expert associated with Stellenbosch University and Professor John Mugabe, a Kenyan ICT academic at the University of Pretoria also joined the meeting to provide external feedback on progress of the ESDA programs.

The ESDA partner universities presented the status of their Masters programs which are in their 5th year of operation. According to the reports, the 8 partner universities have enrolled 132 students so far – 49 for the Mining & Mineral Resources (MMR), 18 for Sustainable Urban Development (SUD), and 65 for Sustainable Integrated Rural Development (SIRDA). Even though this is a marked improvement from last year, the universities highlighted the financial challenges emanating from the costly nature of carrying out the internship program, field research requirements and tuition fees for the students. Nevertheless, there is a positive outlook stemming from funding of students through AfDB-funded NGR research as well as direct financial support to some universities by the AfDB. The partner universities also reported on the ESDA Sustainable Development Workshop Series which aims to enrich the contents and learning material of the ESDA Master’s programs through workshop outputs (for example, books and case studies). All the 8 universities have now organized the first of the two required development workshops and selecting papers to be considered in the first book. An editorial team, responsible for the publication process of the book, has been set up.

With regards to the African Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative, Professor Muthama reported that the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environment Studies at the University of Nairobi was following up on the recommendations made at the Africa Youth Entrepreneurship Workshop Forum in Nairobi last year, and is currently setting up a web-based platform of young entrepreneurs and developing an agri-business incubation network. The ESDA Coordinator also presented the idea of an “African MBA” as a possible 4th Master’s of the ESDA Program.

Finally, the meeting also initiated discussions on the future of the ESDA Consortium on issues related to: (1) widening the scope of the ESDA Master’s Program and opening the current program to other universities and regions in Africa; (2) the future role and location of the ESDA Secretariat and the long term funding strategy of the Consortium. A committee was proposed to further deliberate on these issues.