Howest signs key memorandum with second partner university in Uganda
On 24 and 25 October, Howest will receive a high-ranking delegation from Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST) in Uganda. The visit is part of an Institutional University Cooperation (IUC) leverage project launched by VLIR-UOS in 2021, in which Flemish universities and university colleges provide support to and work closely with a university in the South. One of the highlights of the visit will be the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Howest and the Ugandan university.
Long-term partner in the South
"Ten years ago, Howest was already able to enter into its first Institutional University Cooperation (IUC) with the Mountains of the Moon University in Fort-Portal (Uganda). Up until that point, IUC programmes had always been long-term partnerships between Flemish universities and a university in the South. In 2012, Howest and Thomas More, both universities of applied sciences, came on board as pioneers," says Ivo De Pauw of Howest. "As a university of applied science, we may be slightly less involved in research than at the traditional university level, but we are a useful partner that doesn’t mind rolling up its sleeves to help and gladly shares expertise. For Mountains of the Moon, for example, we helped set up and co-fund a university radio station, provided a secure IT infrastructure and, thanks to funding from the Province of West Flanders, pulled glass fiber cable from the university to the city to guarantee a stable internet connection."
From Mountains of the Moon to Mbarara
While the IUC for Mountains of the Moon is being phased out after 12 years, a new 12-year collaboration is taking full shape with Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Howest University of Applied Sciences is the first school of its kind to lead one of these subprojects. Lies Vanhaelemeesch: "I will be taking the lead in the 'Youth Employability' subproject on behalf of Howest. With youth unemployment at 70 per cent, this is a huge challenge. After having schools in Uganda completely locked down for the past two years, young people have lost their motivation and perspective. And with Uganda being one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, the difficult transition to the workworld is just the beginning. At the same time, Uganda is a target country for Howest that is economically among the better performers on the African continent. Our ambition includes increasing ICT and communication skills while encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset in students. The need for this support emerged during our site visit in April of this year. The delegation now coming to Bruges and Kortrijk will be shown how we are already building our curriculum to support students in setting up businesses and building an ecosystem that includes the business world."
Mutual commitment laid down in memorandum
"An IUC is not your classic one direction – from the West to the South - form of development work," Ivo De Pauw points out. "In this partnership, students and staff exchange knowledge in both directions. Uganda is, after all, a politically stable country with huge potential and solid infrastructure. We will share our expertise for developing tools and programmes that help students find their way into the regular labour market. We will also, for example, set up a business incubator like we already have in Bruges with The Vibe and in Kortrijk with The Hive. Students will be encouraged to set up their own companies, but we also want to eventually link West Flemish and Ugandan SMEs to conduct business effectively. As an inspirer, Howest can also help market local innovations."
The choice of Mbarara University to ensure two-way exchange was not by chance. Lies Vanhaelemeesch: "It truly is an innovative university that was chosen from among 45 applicants. They have the desired boldness, drive and standard. For example, with Covidex, they developed an antiviral drug that helps with Covid-19 recovery. In turn, Nuriat Nambogo, a member of the delegation, was behind MobiCare, an important app that increases access to medical care. Furthermore, Mbarara University actively organises hackathons and Innovation Cafés. We can definitely learn something here."
High-level delegation, richly packed programme
The inspiration tour through Belgium will take the three-member delegation from Mbarara University of Science & Technology successively to the VUB (Brussels), Howest (Kortrijk/Brugge), the Province of West Flanders’ Wereldhuis (Roeselare) and AP Hogeschool Antwerp. The delegates include Prof Dr Manasseh Tumuhimbise (delegation leader), Nuriat Nambogo (CEO MobiCare) and Amos Baryashaba (Head of Dept. of Computing Services).