Prof. Felix Maringe

DVC Institutional Development, Research and Innovation | University of Kigali

AfricaLive Interview with Prof. Felix Maringe, Acting Vice-Chancellor(DVC-IDRI), and CPA Dorcas Kamau, Director of International Affairs and Partnership, University of Kigali, Rwanda.

“We need to democratise the idea and thinking around innovation to create more space for thinking by more people. This involves adopting ideas that have not been done in our own spaces but have the potential to distribute value to the people.” – Prof. Felix Maringe

Key points:

  • In the context of Rwanda’s rapidly growing youth population and the need for economic diversification, the University of Kigali’s philosophy is centred around preparing students for future roles in the labour markets, considering the influence of artificial intelligence and the internet of things.
  • The University emphasises the importance of placing humans at the centre of decision-making when it comes to emerging technologies, while leveraging technology to facilitate processes and achieve goals.
  • The University of Kigali is working on expanding access to education and entrepreneurship opportunities for the youth in Rwanda, recognizing the need for new curricula and skill development.
  • The University is developing a Green University project, focusing on green construction, education, research, and community engagement, to promote sustainability and environmental consciousness.

AfricaLive: Prof. Maringe, could you briefly summarise what you consider the educational identity or philosophy of the University of Kigali to be?

Prof. Felix Maringe: The philosophy or identity of the University of Kigali stems from its motto, which is preparing people for their future roles in the labour markets. Our degree programs focus not just on the state of the labour markets today but also try to create perspectives and insights into what the labour markets are likely to be. Our thinking around future labour markets is strongly influenced by issues related to artificial intelligence and the internet of things, and how these dimensions of progress are likely to alter the labour markets. That becomes the backbone of the University of Kigali – preparing students for the labour markets of the future.


AfricaLive: How do you believe that when it comes to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and emerging technologies, the human can be placed at the centre of development rather than the machine or the corporation?

Prof. Felix Maringe: The human should always be at the centre of our decisions. It should not be the technology that makes decisions on our behalf. We should be able to say how much technology we want and the direction we would like technology to help us with. Strategic decisions about where we want to go, how we want to do it, and with whom we are going to work should remain the prerogative of human beings.

We see humans occupying a very important role in the future labour markets, with technology also playing an extremely important role in facilitating the decisions we want to make, the processes we want to accomplish, and the speed with which we want to get our results. However, we need to be mindful of the waste materials produced as a result of processes happening too quickly and think sufficiently about their disposal or recycling.


AfricaLive: How is the University of Kigali working to expand access to education and ensure that the youth have the opportunity to pursue quality skills development or higher education?

Prof. Felix Maringe: This question is important not just for the University of Kigali but for all Universities in Rwanda. The demand for higher education far outstrips the supply of places and opportunities for young people. As a collective within Rwanda, our Universities need to do more to expand opportunities for young people to join Universities.

However, it should not just be about joining Universities. It should also be about joining opportunities for becoming entrepreneurs. Universities in Rwanda and Africa, in general, have not been highly successful in teaching the skills and knowledge required by young people to be entrepreneurs. We need to turn our attention to ways in which we can create new curricula and opportunities for our youth to influence and affect development markets.


AfricaLive: How do you seek to develop a culture of innovation or entrepreneurship on the campus at the University of Kigali?

Prof. Felix Maringe: The word “innovation” often instils fear, as it appears to be something that can only be done by a few in the top 10-15% of our population. However, innovation is, to a large extent, adopting ideas that may have been tried elsewhere but never in our own context. When we adopt these ideas because we believe they will bring value and opportunity to our context and add quality of life to a large group of people, we are innovating.

We need to democratise the idea and thinking around innovation to create more space for thinking by more people. This involves adopting ideas that have not been done in our own spaces but have the potential to distribute value to the people. Of course, groundbreaking new ideas should also be allowed space and funding whenever they are innovative.


AfricaLive: What are the flagship projects at the University of Kigali that you would like to draw attention to?

Prof. Felix Maringe: One flagship project we are developing is the notion of the Green University. We have strategically decided to become a Green University, coinciding with the construction of our new campus. Our Green University concept is built around four pillars:

  1. Green construction: Using materials with smaller carbon footprints.
  2. Green education: Aiming to become a paperless University within the next three years.
  3. Green research: Leading thinking around the growth of green finance, human resources management, and green curricula across different disciplines.
  4. Green community engagement: Making the community an integral part of our research and innovation processes, moving away from treating them merely as subjects or objects of research.


Dorcas Kamau: I’d like to add that we have made deliberate efforts to achieve zero waste reduction, appreciating our country’s initiatives in reducing waste and promoting recycling. We have set aside an area in our new campus to showcase our zero waste efforts.

Another aspect is taking care of biodiversity. Rwanda has done much in this regard, such as incorporating the Green City Kigali. We have also set aside an area in our new campus for plantations, focusing on native plants for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. It’s our responsibility as a University to educate the community on measures to adapt to climate change, ensuring a green country and University.

We are intentional about incorporating sustainability into our curriculum and forming partnerships with like-minded institutions locally and internationally. If sustainability is not communicated and made intentional, it may remain just a statement in a book. We ensure that our green initiatives are effectively communicated to the relevant stakeholders.


Prof. Felix Maringe: Another important project is the internationalisation of education. We are moving towards the idea that the internationalisation of education need not be based on Eurocentric thinking or influence. Instead, it should create effort around understanding local knowledge systems as ones that can sit side by side with other more established knowledge systems. This can create important nodes for the internationalisation of education.

It’s about creating partnerships between ourselves and other nations to further internationalise our institutions. Inter-African relationships between universities can be difficult to build, as many parts of Africa still hold stronger ties with countries like the United Kingdom or other parts of Europe. However, it is vital for the continent to develop these partnerships and not focus solely on a Western way of thinking when it comes to the internationalisation of education.


AfricaLive: What does partnership mean to the University of Kigali, and what are the building blocks of a successful partnership? Could you tell us about the partnerships you are engaged in?

Dorcas Kamau: The University of Kigali started in October 2013 with only 35 students, and currently, we have over 7000 students, ten years down the line. One of the key things that have made this growth possible is partnerships.

To ensure our University is able to absorb the high youth population in Rwanda, our expansion strategy includes excelling in e-learning, maximising our modular system and having different sessions with a special focus on day, evening and weekend. 

We are also building a new campus, which we know cannot be achieved as fast as we want without partnerships. Our five pillars are Academic Excellence, Green University, Research and Innovation Excellence, Organisational Excellence and Community Engagement.

We are currently engaged in both international as well as local partnerships with a variety of reputable Universities. Via the Erasmus + Programme, we are able to engage in student and faculty exchange with our European Partners. The mobility programme is of great importance to our University as it allows our students and faculty to experience education in a different academic environment with different cultures, build professional networks, enhance their soft skills, collaborate in research projects and enhance their language proficiency among others.

Closer to home, having partners within the region has allowed our University to share expertise, resources, and best practices tailored to the African context. The shared culture, research initiatives, similar problems and academic programs with our African partners, help us to deepen the impact of our university’s activities by addressing the specific needs, priorities, and aspirations of African societies and communities.

Apart from our partnership with Universities, we also value partnerships with non-academic institutions. For instance, Harambee, an NGO helps us deliver employability skills training to our fourth-year students. We realise that the skills gap exists, and we want to ensure that our graduates are market-ready.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.