AfricaLive: What does it mean to be an African institution of higher learning?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: The future will have so much to do with the African continent, in my opinion. Africa has the largest population of people right now; this means that African empowerment is global empowerment. I also believe in the phrase; ‘if you educate a woman, you educate the entire community’. Educating African women, who are a large percentage of the global female population, means improving the female condition everywhere.
AfricaLive: What is the role of your institution in creating the next generation of skilled professionals that Ghana needs to prosper?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: The University of Ghana is one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the region. We, therefore, have a responsibility as an institution to develop high-quality human resources not only for the country and continent but also the world. Being one of the most notable institutions in the continent, we are passionate about working towards a peaceful Africa. We also want our home to be industrialised and interconnected, just like the more developed parts of the world. Our strong focus on imparting the right skills will eventually lead to a very sophisticated and able workforce.
AfricaLive: What are some of the strategic goals you are pursuing at the University of Ghana?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: There are several goals that we aim to accomplish. We are looking at more internationally appreciated academic certifications and infrastructure development training. As the head of the institution, I want to leave a legacy of strong moral fibre. When an institution lacks moral fibre, all the goals it wishes to accomplish will be nothing but glowing words. I am, therefore, focused on developing and leaving behind a strong moral foundation here. Organisations that lack proper internal mechanisms like internal audits and legal counsel are at risk of going down. The University of Ghana is reliable in these areas because we want to model our society after the institution.
AfricaLive: We understand that about half of African jobs are under threat because of automation. What action plans are you working on to prepare young people for the impending changes?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: We realised years ago that there was an unfortunate disconnect between industry and academia. As an institution, we set out to find a solution that would promote more synergy with the industry. One of the answers came in the form of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology. We started that institution to help bridge the gap between academia and industry. It has worked well so far because engagements with the industry have been steadily increasing. Our efforts also include the formulation of a science pact with the government, which will help advance academia-industry meet-ups. The government has also set aside large tracts of land for the development of industries close to our area. We will benefit immensely from new research and partnership opportunities when this materializes. Our PHD program is also undergoing modifications to become more industry oriented.
AfricaLive: What are some of the most important research projects you are currently working on?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: There are three general fundamentals of research; food, health, and shelter. Here in Africa, we have an acute focus on education, health and food stability. Africa’s food needs are so dire that we can’t afford to get our research wrong. Unfortunately, we have been unable to capitalise on the vast arable land in our continent. Our inability to capitalise on the land has been due to technological challenges, pollution and other factors. Proper research can look at all these factors and direct us to solutions that are within our reach. The government has responded to the food challenges by setting up greenhouses and challenging us to produce safe and healthy vegetables. We need reliable technology to not only plant and treat farm produce, but also to process and store it.
AfricaLive: How do you think technology is impacting education in Africa, and how do institutions like yours remain relevant in an era of fast-changing technologies?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: The rapid changes being brought about by technology are undeniable. Any institution that remains rigid in the face of change will fail miserably. I, therefore, advise our sister institutions to stay on the lookout and adjust accordingly. Technology helps save time and gives value for money at the same time, which is why our government is increasingly digitising operations. As a university, we are capitalising on technology to enhance disciplines like agriculture, teaching and research. Remaining relevant in this technology age is about adapting quickly.
AfricaLive: European and American institutions get way more donor funding than African institutions of higher learning. What can African institutions do to attract more funding?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: Charity begins at home. Before we think about competing with international institutions for donor funding, we need to look at ourselves first. Every country in Africa should have a national research fund. A research fund in every African state would demonstrate to the world our willingness to solve our problems. Any outreach to external financiers must only be to supplement our efforts. If our governments start investing more in research, our dependence on outside funding will reduce. I also think that it is not so much about competing for funding these days, it’s more about making partnerships. When partners gain confidence in our institutions, we will achieve great things.
AfricaLive: African Universities have struggled to build intra-African partnerships more so than with their European counterparts. How do you think this problem can be overcome?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: It is true that we have more relationships with European Universities than our own. It is also quite shocking that we barely have any intra-country University relationships with each other. We can solve the intra-African partnering problem by first setting up secure networks within our countries. If we collaborate more with each other and make some good progress, foreign institutions will have more incentive to join our ventures.
AfricaLive: What countries or regions within Africa are you looking to create more partnerships?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: Our outreach approach is very open-minded. Our doors are open to all regardless of location. We are hoping to secure more partnerships in the agricultural industry, for instance. Our ambition is to become a leader in food research and food production.
AfricaLive: Please tell our readers about the agricultural project you are currently undertaking. What partnerships have you formed around it, and how have you been able to produce so much?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: Our project has taken off quite remarkably and involves the creation of Green House Villages. It aims to address the youth unemployment problem through agricultural education and entrepreneurship. It was also born out of a need to produce more safe, healthy and organic food for our people. The long term goal is to establish our country as a net exporter of food in the next few years to come.
AfricaLive: How confident are you in the future of the university, your country and Africa at large?
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu: I am confident that this university will keep being a model for success and uprightness in the country and region. We are happy to exist in a peaceful country that I believe is on the right trajectory. Our president is promoting the idea of a “Ghana beyond Aid”, and it is gaining traction in the country. If we achieve that objective, it will send a message to other African countries that this is a possibility.