FAO Regional Office for Africa

Higher education’s role in agrifood systems transformation

Stakeholders in higher agricultural education across Africa meet to strengthen partnerships and investments for Africa’s development


16 December 2022, Harare - Higher education players must collaborate to enable science, technology and innovation to drive and guide Africa’s agrifood systems transformation. That was FAO’s central message at the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) 18th Annual General Meeting (AGM), held in Harare on 12-16 December 2022. More than 1,300 delegates and stakeholders in higher agricultural education across the continent, including Ministers, development partners, university leaders, students, private sector leaders, farmers and young innovators met to discuss achievements, opportunities and challenges in strengthening Africa’s agrifood systems.

“Collective perspectives shared in this forum must inspire the formulation and implementation of home-grown, agriculture-led and knowledge-based economic development initiatives,” said H.E. Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

The delegates reaffirmed that agriculture would drive economic development on the continent and that universities have a major role to play in deploying science, technology and innovations.

“The agrifood systems agenda should be co-owned, by making it at the centre of the work we all do,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, delivering a keynote address at the opening ceremony. He emphasized the importance of science, innovation and investment which must drive the agrifood systems transformation and the pivotal roles that universities must play in the process.

“We must do everything possible to strengthen Africa's agrifood systems to ensure we are able to feed our people and to support our economic development,” said Professor Adipala Ekwamu, Executive Secretary, RUFORUM. He called upon all African governments to work with African universities to develop science solutions for Africa and to strengthen the agricultural value chain while promoting inclusivity.

FAO also contributed to the RUFORUM 18th AGM by sharing its approach to capacity development and elearning methodologies, and introducing online resources and tools including the FAO elearning Academy, AGORA and the latest publications in the area of agrifood systems transformation in Africa.

FAO continues to strengthen member countries’ capacities to be better equipped to face global challenges and make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in collaboration and partnership with academia, research institutions and other partners and stakeholders.


FAO and RUFORUM formalized their partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2017 and continue to collaborate to develop capacities of the RUFORUM member institutions across the continent, currently comprising of 163 universities operating within 40 African countries as of December 2022, to improve food security and nutrition in Africa. Collaboration focuses on knowledge exchange and sharing of expertise, development of institutional capacities and technical competencies of RUFORUM member universities, engagement of the academic and research community in evidence-based policy processes, and advocacy and awareness-raising among African youth.

At this year’s RUFORUM AGM, FAO’s Abebe Haile-Gabriel received the Recognition Award for this outstanding contributions to Africa’s development throughout this career, his efforts to ensure integration of higher education in agricultural development in Africa, and mobilizing and aligning development support for strengthening agrifood systems in Africa.