Michigan State University's Thom Jayne has been chosen as the lead author of a study commissioned by the World Bank to identify how agricultural universities can effectively respond to emerging new skill requirements of Africa’s agricultural workforce. The study has been commissioned to guide the implementation of the $50 million Project entitled Strengthening Higher Education for Agri-food Systems (SHAEA).
The SHAEA project is a $50 million, five-year regional initiative that is being developed by the World Bank in partnership with African governments and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). The initiative builds on Africa’s efforts to stimulate agri-food system transformation by strengthening linkages between selected African universities and regional agricultural sector needs for developing required human resources to accelerate agri-food system transformation in Africa. The current proposed seven target countries for SHAEA are Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique.
“We see this as a major opportunity to bring what MSU has learned over the past several decades about institutional capacity development into the design and implementation of a major initiative in Africa to strengthen the performance of agricultural universities,” said Jayne, University Foundation Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) at MSU and 2018 Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA). “I believe that the World Bank and RUFORUM came to MSU to lead this study based on the long-standing international recognition that many units of our university have developed over the decades in the area of capacity development, including but certainly not limited to the Department of AFRE.”
AFRE is home to the Food Security Group, Feed the Future Innovation Lab, and is closely linked with the Alliance for African Partnership, a new initiative at MSU to build long-term effective partnerships between MSU, African universities, and pan-African policy organizations.
“My professional efforts in the last 10 years have been based on the recognition that development in any region is associated with the sustainable development of its own institutions,” said Jayne.
The study led by Jayne will identify the mega-trends likely to influence African agri-food systems and anticipate how these trends will influence what the private and public sectors will be looking for in university graduates. The study will also explore the technological and skill requirements to be most valued among graduates of African agricultural universities. The results of the study will be used to guide institutional and policy changes, and most immediately to inform the implementation of the World Bank/RUFORUM SHAEA Initiative, set to start disbursing funds in 2019.
Also on Jayne’s team to conduct the study is MSU’s Amy Jamison, co-director of the Alliance for African Partnership, and John Bonnell, Director of the Tanzanian Partnership Program at MSU. Joining the MSU team is Suresh Babu, senior research fellow at the International Food Research Policy Institute (IFRPRI), and Peter Goodman, senior agricultural specialist at the World Bank.
"Transforming institutions is one of the Alliance for African Partnership’s major initiatives," said Jamison. "The SHAEA study offers an important opportunity to take a more in depth look at the strengths and challenges for agriculture higher education and how those institutions might be transformed to strengthen agri-food systems."