Prof Patrick Edrin Kyamanywa

Vice-Chancellor | Uganda Martyrs University

Key Points:

  • Uganda Martyrs University is aligning itself with the global STEM agenda and national development plans to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. It has expanded from two faculties to nine, covering a wide range of disciplines including Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine, Health Sciences, Built Environment, and Law.
  • Research at UMU focuses on areas such as agroecology, livelihood systems, migration and refugee studies, and post-colonial African studies.
  • UMU aims to empower graduates with research, innovation, and entrepreneurial skills to become problem solvers and job creators. The university has established partnerships with national and international institutions to enhance research opportunities and capacity building.
  • Prof. Kyamanywa emphasizes the importance of partnerships in achieving sustainable solutions and the need for equity in North-South partnerships.

AfricaLive: You have a background in leadership and innovation. Can you elaborate on your vision for fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within Uganda Martyrs University, and how this might benefit students, faculty, and the Ugandan community at large?

Prof Patrick Edrin Kyamanywa: With a rich history dating back to 1964, our university was named in honour of canonised Uganda Martyrs. While we proudly acknowledge our Catholic roots, we foster a vibrant environment of academic freedom. This allows exploration and research to extend beyond the confines of Catholicism, encompassing a diverse range of disciplines.

Our journey began in 1993 with a focus on ethics, and business management. Since then, we’ve witnessed remarkable growth, expanding to encompass faculties like Engineering, Agriculture, and Medicine – the latter now boasting specialised programs in surgery and other medical fields. We’ve also established a Faculty of Health Sciences, a Faculty of the Built Environment, and most recently, a Faculty of Law. This impressive growth has transformed our institution from two faculties to a thriving academic hub with nine distinct areas of expertise.

We have reviewed our curricula to create opportunities for innovation and Entrepreneurship including industrial and community placements. These innovative interventions aim at producing graduates that can be problem solvers and influencers in the community.


AfricaLive: UMU has a strong commitment to its Ugandan roots. How do you see research at UMU addressing critical challenges facing Uganda, while also contributing to advancements in a broader global context, particularly in areas where your own research interests lie?

Prof Patrick Edrin Kyamanywa: Looking towards the future, we’re aligning ourselves with the global STEM agenda (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as part of our strategic vision for innovation. This commitment reflects national, regional and global aspirations like the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and Uganda’s Vision 2040, ensuring our research remains relevant in a rapidly evolving technological era.

Our research focus has transcended its initial emphasis on ethics, peace, and governance. Today, we boast centres of excellence in fields like agroecology and livelihood systems, a testament to our impactful work funded by prestigious institutions like the World Bank. This dedication has elevated our position as a prominent player in agroecological research as a response to the climate change challenges, while also solidifying our reputation in fields like migration and refugee studies, as well as, post-colonial African studies.

Our guiding principle is to empower our graduates not just with academic knowledge, but also with research, innovation and entrepreneurial skills. We envision them as knowledge creators, problem solvers and job creators, driving positive change in their chosen fields. We believe research should not solely serve the pursuit of academic prestige, but also contribute meaningfully to national transformation.

Our innovation agenda was at first held back by a focus on Humanities, but with time, people here began warming up to a new way of doing things. We also created a sub-directorate within the graduate school, responsible for research, innovation and community engagement. We restructured the school into a Directorate of Graduate Studies, Research and Enterprise and it is supposed to lead in research and respond to calls for funding applications from different funders, while also hosting science and innovation speakers and clinics. In the recent past, we have hosted great speakers from institutions such as Enterprise Uganda, and the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

The directorate of enterprise has seen the funding of two innovative proposals. One of them involves a project that will see an alternative way of extracting gold and the other looks at how we can convert the by-products of the leather industry into a biofertiliser. These two government-funded projects will see Uganda not only reduce her carbon waste but also develop an innovative industry that could employ millions in the future.

Other innovative research projects that we are proud of include use of the black soldier fly larvae as alternative protein sources for Livestock, and another on use of artificial intelligence (AI), where students have worked on how we can predict road accidents. These projects could be game changers in our national agricultural and logistics systems when complete. To incentivise this research momentum beyond just government funding, we started a program to reward researchers who have come up with useful projects that move our nation forward.

We also want to develop a strong relationship with these researchers going forward while exposing them to more research opportunities. Our researchers have benefited from the research partnerships we have set up with national and international institutions like the Regional University Forum RUFORUM that focuses on growing capacity for agricultural training and research; and the Catholic University of Milan, where they can enrol in a masters of business administration in impact innovation and a PHD program in innovation management. We also have a partnership with the University of Cadiz in Spain, where we are running an undergraduate business and engineering program focusing heavily on renewable energy.


AfricaLive: What are the key projects you would like to make a wider audience aware of?

Prof Patrick Edrin Kyamanywa: The first high flyer has to be our agroecology and livelihood project. The World Bank has funded the project for the past six years and it has seen impactful research and solid projects get off the ground. One of the solid projects has in addition to the black soldier fly larvae as alternative protein sources for animal feeds, ventured in identification and culturing of indigenous microorganisms (IMO) to replace pesticides in horticulture farming.

Our MBA in Impactful Entrepreneurship (MBA-E4IMPACT) has gone global, with 16 participating countries and universities all over Africa. One of the admission criteria for this MBA is to present a running entrepreneurial project or a business concept. We then work with the student for two years, to prove that the project can be grown sustainably and be impactful. One of our biggest success stories is a student who is now a major international coffee exporter supplying the Italian market. The student’s brand, NUCAFE, is now gaining traction in new European markets. The brand integrates farmers, coffee processors and other stakeholders in the coffee supply chain.


AfricaLive: In matters of national development, how confident are you in the future of Uganda?

Prof Patrick Edrin Kyamanywa: The Uganda vision 2040 plan, directs most of the development projects in our country. To support that vision, we also have the national development plan, which is in its third cycle, anchored on industrialisation and economic advancement based on science, technology, engineering and innovation. Our economic advancement plan focuses on two areas which are; agricultural output (crops and livestock) and natural resources such as oil. Aside from the two focus areas, there is also emphasis on developing our knowledge economy through education.

Our country must take advantage of the current youthful population. With over 70 percent of the population being below the age of 40, the Government has put young people front and centre in national planning, with the launch of universal primary and secondary education, as well as an emphasis on quality vocational training. With all the plans in place and the abundant natural resources, I am confident about the prospects of our country.

On our part as a university, we want to contribute by equipping our young people with digital skills in this era of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The government is spearheading this agenda through the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation.


AfricaLive: What would your message be to potential international partners, on opportunities in Uganda, and what does partnership mean to you?

Prof Patrick Edrin Kyamanywa: Our development cannot happen without partnerships. We are slowly ushering in a world where stiff competition is being replaced by partnerships. This is also the 17th Goal of the UN SGDs. Partnerships are great because once we see one group’s struggle as our own, we can together create more sustainable solutions. The group can be a university, a business, a country or any marginalised group.

International partners need to understand that we have all the will in the world to make changes, but we may not have the human, technological or financial resources to make the interventions we desire on our own.

Our potential partners can chip in by helping us develop our human resource capacity through knowledge and technological transfer, relevant curriculums, boost our funding for postgraduate research and help us get our impactful innovations and research findings off the ground and shelves. An ideal partner is one who helps improve us as we help improve them.

Equity in partnership is also important because historically, North-South partnerships have led to more impactful changes happening in the North than in the South. Our university is in a good place and ready for partnerships because our science and technological agenda has taken off.

As we focus on AI and machine learning, we must also focus on developing humans. We foresee a disaster in the future if we continue trying to humanise machines while dehumanising the humans. So, we are setting up our agenda in a way that we don’t lose focus on the human as we chase the development of the perfect machine solutions.

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