PBL – BioAfrica Project Kicks Off

The virtual kickoff seminar for the PBL-BioAfrica was held on November 4–5, 2020. PBL-BioAfrica is a collaborative project for strengthening bioeconomy education through promoting PBL (problem-based learning), entrepreneurship, innovation, and digital learning methods in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

“PBL-BioAfrica is for reforming bioeconomy curricula and improving graduates’ work-life relevant competence. We aim at strengthening the students’ ability to tackle global sustainability issues”, said Project Manager, Dr. Eija Laitinen, Principal Research Scientist at the Bioeconomy Research Unit at HAMK.

Dr. Eija Laitinen during the virtual orientation of the PBL Bio-Africa project on 4th November 2020

Digital learning and teaching enables reaching a large number of young Africans. The reformation is launched in the five partner HEIs in Kenya and Zambia. “Best learning practices will be disseminated to wider Sub-Saharan Africa through our network of agriculture universities”, said Florence Nakayiwa, Deputy Executive Secretary at RUFORUM (Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture), which has 129 member HEIs from 38 African countries.

Ambassador Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury noted in her greeting from Lusaka that “PBL-BioAfrica supports Finland’s priorities in Zambia; entrepreneurship, youth employment, climate change, food security, higher education collaboration, equality, and human rights.”

One of the partners in Kenya is Egerton University, where all agronomy students take an entrepreneurship course. Dean Abdul Faraji stated that “through PBL methods, graduates will turn from job seekers to job creators”.

The four-year project has received a fund of nearly 1,5 million euros from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and is part of the HEI ICI programme (Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument) for building higher education capacity in the developing world. Beside the HEI networks, project partners are RUFORUM, UniPID (Finnish University Partnership for International Development), MFA-funded AGS programme (Accelerated Growth for SME’s Zambia) and local operators in Kenya and Zambia.

The University of Nairobi has adopted the Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach and has previously run similar programmes in collaboration with development and industry partners. Key programmes to come out of the previous initiatives include the University of Nairobi Innovation and Research Fellowship among others. The institution has in the past years collaborated with the Finish Government and Aalto University to run the PBL East Africa programme.

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