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Another international conference opens at MKU

Prof John J. Struthers, Mount Kenya University's (MKU's) Chancellor.

A major international conference on economic transmission for Africa opened on Thursday at Mount Kenya University (MKU) main campus in Thika town on Thursday.

The 8th annual international conference of the Centre for African Research on Enterprise and Economic Development (Careed) is being held under the theme, “Fostering Economic Transformation in African Ecosystems: The Impact of Trade, Infrastructure and innovation.”  More than 70 papers from renowned global scholars will be presented across several parallel sessions during the two-day conference which is being held on 27th and 28th of June 2024. 

Welcoming delegates to the forum, the MKU Chancellor who is also Director at CAREED for University of the West of Scotland (UWS), Professor John Struthers, said this year’s meeting is significant as it is being held in Africa for the first time. “This year’s conference is also noteworthy because of the number and range of papers being presented and the many African countries represented,” he said.

The keynote speakers at the forum are Dr Santino Severoni, Director of the Department of Health and Migration, WHO Headquarters based in Geneva s an experienced international senior technical adviser and executive and Prof. Dr. Charles Mulli,  Founder of  Mully Children’s Family Trust (MCF) based in Machakos county, Kenya.

Dr Severoni has worked governments, NGOs, and foundations in eastern Africa, central Asia, the Balkans, and Europe. His areas of expertise include global health, health sector reforms, health systems strengthening, health diplomacy, aid coordination effectiveness and management of complex emergencies.

Within WHO, he has held various positions including WHO Representative in Albania and Tajikistan, Regional Office’s Special Representative on Health and Migration and acting interim Director on Health Systems and Public Health. Dr Santino Severoni has also been Director of the Department of Health and Migration at WHO headquarters since 2020. He is a medical doctor, health economist, epidemiologist, and systems manager with over 24 years’ experience.  

On his part, Prof Mulli is a renowned social entrepreneur globally. He established the children’s home, trust and Christian charitable organisation in 1989, dedicating to providing dignified livelihoods to children, youth, and marginalised members of society. 

Prof Mulli's personal experiences as a former street child inspired his lifelong mission to transform the lives of vulnerable populations, one child at a time. A transformative encounter with street children in 1986 led to the establishment of MCF in 1989. Selling his assets, he dedicated his life to providing homeless children with shelter, education, and hope. 

Since then, MCF has successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated over 28,000 beneficiaries and currently cares for approximately 7,500 by providing essential services like parental care, spiritual nourishment, education, and healthcare.

Dr. Vincent Gaitho, Chairman of Council and Pro-Chancellor Mount Kenya University said the seven pervious conferences of the CAREED took place in Scotland, Europe, at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). “The 8th International Conference marks the arrival of the “new being” or the “new entity”, “new baby”, within our larger community. This is a milestone achievement for both CAREED and for UWS for having successfully nurtured the conference series at UWS through the past seven years or over, which included the dreadful time of the COVID 19 pandemic”.

 Dr Gaitho said CAREED’s five key areas of interest”, namely, commodities and exporting; logistics and supply chain management; enterprise and entrepreneurship (including gender enterprise); enterprise and entrepreneurship, governance and ethics” as shall be reflected in the conference proceedings, should also be well ear-marked as areas of future research and development in Africa by Africans. 

“We must remind ourselves of the need to have the youth in African in all what comes with this new entity. Available literature supports this need of deliberate involvement (and not by chance!) of the youth on every socio-economic transformation engagements in African including the series of CAREED conferences,” he said. 

The Pro-chancellor appreciated the WHO’s migration health discourse guided more specifically, by the International Organization for Migration and the Center for Health and Migration as significant entities in international movements of goods and people and related logistics. “We look forward to receive recommendations from this conference that will be used in reaching out to more stakeholders to take advantage of the conference proceedings and publications as tangible, action areas in driving the future of the African Continent for the overall good of the African people,” he said. 

MKU Vice Councillor, Prof. Deogratius Jaganyi said the University of the West of Scotland and MKU have continued to enjoy a synergetic partnership, exemplified by the recently concluded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project. The project is funded by Innovate UK and partnered with Farmtrack Consulting, a private company in Kenya. 

The VC said trade contributes to 15 per cent of Africa's GDP, infrastructure development can boost economic growth by 2-3% annually, and innovation has the potential to increase productivity by up to 30%. “As we forge a united front towards fostering economic transformation in African ecosystems, the impact of trade, infrastructure, and innovation cannot be overemphasized,” he added. 

Appreciating the delegates and speakers participating in the conference, Prof Jaganyi said these key themes are instrumental in supporting livelihoods and promoting economic prosperity across sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Prof Struthers, the year since the 7th Annual Conference was held at the Paisley Campus of UWS in 2023 has been a busy and eventful period for Careed, with many new members joining the centre. Highlights include: the first Distinguished Lecture presentation by Professor David Luke of the London School of Economics (LSE) based on his recently co-edited book How Africa Trades; more short papers written by CAREED colleagues for the centre’s Policy and Practice Insights Series.

Last year, a new initiative by the renowned Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to promote links between Scottish Universities and African Universities across a range of subject themes commenced.  Prof Struthers said CAREED will lead this RSE initiative in the area of Enterprise and Economic Development. 

Other key milestones during the past year have been the completion of the African Agriculture Knowledge Training Partnership (AAKTP) project in which MKU and Farmtrack Ltd in Kenya are partners.  A new agriculture project commenced in Nigeria at the end of 2023. 

In the last year one year, a significant number of doctorate degrees were awarded to CAREED research students, several of whom have joined the academic staff at UWS in the School of Business and Creative Industries.

The joint planning committee for this year’s forum includes Dr Henry Yatich of MKU and Dr Ephias Ruhode and Dr Mbusiro Chacha of UWS and Deputy Director of CAREED, Dr Adebisi Adewole. 

The sponsors for this year’s conference were  Superior Homes (Kenya) Ltd; Henderson Properties (Scotland); Overseas Students House (Ghana); Grace Education (Kenya) and IEIS Ltd.

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