Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo

Vice-Chancellor | Kampala International University

“You can only innovate from what you already have. It involves a thought process, ideation, filtration of ideas, prototyping, and more.”

Key points:


  • KIU’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo, brought significant experience and conducted a thorough study of the university to categorise aspects for improvement and introduction.
  • Innovation at KIU involves co-creation, taking advantage of existing resources to produce new solutions that address contemporary challenges and societal problems.
  • Universities should empower graduates to become job creators by adding credentials, changing curricula to be student-driven and competency-based, creating centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, and equipping them with technology integration skills.
  • Successful partnerships require mapping strengths, identifying champions, engaging in collaborative activities, assigning responsibility, being honest about capacity limitations, and finding alternative ways to contribute beyond subscription fees.
  • KIU adapted to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by integrating digital technology, investing in infrastructure, and addressing issues of equity and access in online learning.


AfricaLive: Under your leadership, KIU is consistently ranked as the top private university in Uganda. What do you consider your educational philosophy to be, and what strategies have you taken to encourage development and innovation at the university?

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo: When I joined KIU about nine years ago, I brought on board significant experiences from academic leadership, scholarly research, and regulatory frameworks. I conducted a thorough study of the university, categorising aspects that were good and should stay, those that needed improvement, and what was missing and needed to be introduced.

I focused on identifying “energy pockets” within the institution, particularly the existing human resources and those we needed to bring on board. Interacting with deans, principles of schools, faculties, and colleges, I leveraged their experience to add value rather than reinventing the wheel.

My tenure was marked by three phases:

  • Addressing power centres and harnessing opportunities within the institution.
  • Harmonising institutional policies and ensuring they aligned with national education and research policies, as well as international collaborations.
  • Integrating digital technology during the COVID-19 disruption, leading to virtual graduations.

Post-COVID, we faced ramifications such as dropouts, staff departures, and financial challenges. This led me to work with university founders to think about alternative financing models which we remain focused on now in order to grow the university and its impact.


AfricaLive: What does innovation mean to you?

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo: Innovation to me is co-creation – taking advantage of what exists to produce something new that addresses a contemporary situation, challenge, or societal problem. You can only innovate from what you already have. It involves a thought process, ideation, filtration of ideas, prototyping, and more.

In the African context, our forefathers found innovative ways to address issues, such as trapping rainwater using banana leaves and drums. Similarly, we are confronted with various issues that require specific teams to think and develop solutions.

At KIU, we established a Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where students from different disciplines come together to identify problems and contribute ideas from different perspectives. The solutions generated are not only appropriate but also acceptable by a cross-section of the community.


AfricaLive: What role do you believe universities should play in empowering graduates to become job creators, and what is your approach at KIU?

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo: Graduate employability is an outcome of many aspects. In the African context, parents and sponsors invest heavily in education, but their happiness often stops at graduation. University education has remained a bit inelastic and not as dynamic as it should be.

The challenge for universities is to add credentials to graduates. The curriculum must change to become student-driven and competency-based. However, the dilemma is whether we know the absorption capacity of the job market in the East African region. There are more universities producing graduates than the market can absorb.

Universities need to create centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, offering two tracks for graduates: employability skills and the ability to create their own work. This requires investment, connecting with practitioners (professors of practice), and providing students with industry exposure through internships and placements.

Moreover, universities must equip graduates with technology integration skills, such as understanding how their knowledge fits into artificial intelligence. The economy must grow enough to provide these opportunities for students to gain industry experience and feedback.

The owners of universities also play a role in graduate employability. Public universities were established to produce public servants, while private institutions may be driven by venture capitalist motives. However, universities are a service industry and do not make money, as they are doing a public good. Any surplus is invested in facilities.

Addressing graduate employability requires a multi-approach solution, with universities creating centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, adding credentials to graduates, and equipping them with technology integration skills. The economy must also grow to provide opportunities for industry exposure and feedback.


AfricaLive: Partnership is vital for progress, not just for institutions but for the country and the region. What does partnership mean to you, and what are the building blocks of a successful partnership?

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo: Partnership is a fundamental pillar for the survival of universities. Before establishing a partnership, individual universities must map out what they have to offer and identify the vision, mission, strengths, and niche of potential partner institutions.

The concept of “reverse linkaging” is essential, where each institution brings something to the table, and both benefit from one another. Building blocks of a successful partnership include:

  • Mapping out strengths and identifying what each institution does best.
  • Identifying champions within both institutions at the department or school level to drive the partnership beyond MoUs and agreements.
  • Engaging in activities that keep the partnership alive, such as joint conferences, grant applications, and regular communication.
  • Assigning responsibility and publicising the relationship within the institutions.
  • Being honest about capacity limitations and willingness to build in certain areas.

Champions must be enabled and supported by the top leadership, potentially freeing them from teaching loads and administrative responsibilities to focus on the partnership and deliver results.

Some limitations exist in collaborations, such as subscription requirements for joining associations and unions. Finding universities in arrears may not qualify for projects. The future of collaboration should not depend solely on subscriptions. Institutions should be able to contribute in other ways, such as providing a professor who can bring in a substantial grant, beyond the annual subscription fee.


AfricaLive: How is KIU benefiting from the mindset shift around research and innovation in Uganda, and how will you develop your research capabilities in the future?

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo: In 2015, I proposed that every course taught at the university should have 25% of its content delivered virtually. However, the attitude towards online learning and technology application was challenging, both from the university owners and the students.

When the COVID-19 lockdown happened, we struggled to adapt. After three months, it was clear that the closure would not end soon, so we started putting services online, such as Senate and management meetings, and providing data to our staff.

Upon reopening, those who had gotten used to online delivery found it difficult to return physically. Ensuring quality became a new challenge. We now require students to have laptops and access to data, and we have invested in upgrading our networks to support this.

The challenge remains in equity and access, as some students may still be disadvantaged. Universities need to establish funds to support students who lack access. We also faced a surprising scenario where students petitioned our regulators when we put exams online for the first time. 

We ended up seeing a complete transformation from no online at all, to limited online, forced online and now most students prefer online education. This was the trend with all major universities, like Makerere and others. We went further by consulting our senate and regulators to see if we could also graduate these students online. I ended up overseeing two virtual graduations, one in 2020 and two in 2021 – and these were major milestones for me. 


AfricaLive: On the topics we have been discussing, particularly around innovation and entrepreneurship, what would you say are the flagship projects you would want to bring attention to?

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo: One of our flagship projects has to do with climate change. I believe this project shouldn’t only be a Kampala International University undertaking, but a concerted effort by all stakeholders. Issues of climate change and biodiversity are now everybody’s concern. It doesn’t matter if you are in the medical, legal or engineering discipline, climate change affects us all. We all saw the flooding in Dubai and other parts of the world where thousands were displaced and property ruined, that crisis affected everyone whether rich or poor. 

We must also address the issue of waste management which is big in this part of the world. We have five flagship projects addressing this and these have to do with; young mothers accessing healthcare information more readily through the help of technology, cleaning up our cities and towns through proper garbage management, leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship to also solve the waste management problem.

Our innovation and entrepreneurship must also involve indigenous knowledge that has helped our people survive for thousands of years. This will happen by identifying societal concerns, building a think tank with indigenous knowledge seekers and technology innovators in it, we then do incubation and develop our prototypes. With our prototypes ready, we will then bring the industry onboard and come up with a product that helps society – to complete the cycle. 

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