Celebrating 20 years of Swedish cooperation with the University of Rwanda
University of Rwanda and the Swedish Embassy in Kigali celebrated 20 years of cooperation. At the three day-celebration in Rwanda were representatives from the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, Uppsala University among others. Following the celebration, KTH held a two-day workshop as a kickoff for expanded and deepened cooperation under a new agreement that was signed. Stefan Swartling Peterson and Giulia Gaudenzi report from their trip to Rwanda.
Through Sida, Sweden has supported capacity development at the University of Rwanda for 20 years. The cooperation involves many faculties and universities and is lead by University of Gothenburg. Karolinska Institutet participates with supervision of Professor Anders Björkman and Björn Kull, Head of Head of Grants Office.
Present at the celebrations that took place end of March in Kigali were, among others, the Rector of KTH, Vice Rectors of University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology and representatives from Uppsala University. Assistant Professor Giulia Gaudenzi and Professor Stefan Swartling Peterson represented KI and participated both in the three-day celebration, and in the two-day workshop following the celebration where a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to further expand and deepen the cooperation. The Rector of KTH signed the MoU with University of Rwanda, Rwanda Polytechnic, National Council Science Technology and Rwanda Development board
Rwanda- a country with a vision
"Rwanda is undergoing a transformation of the entire society, and with 7-8% annual economic growth and major infrastructure investments, it has completely changed since my first visit in 2006. The country's leadership has a strong vision of a developed country, and is inventive and driven. There is great accountability throughout society, where all officials and ministers must "deliver", says Stefan Swartling Peterson.
An example of this development is a special economic zone, where Kigali Innovation City is now being built. Carnegie Mellon University has an IT campus that Stefan Swartling Peterson and Giulia Gaudenzi visited, which is right next to BIONTECH's establishment of research and mRNA vaccine manufacturing. The University of Rwanda is also establishing itself in this zone with the intention of training biomanufacturing up to master level. Coventry University has a representative office on site and a Norrsken office is also established with a 1200-seat hub and a large venture fund.
Kigali is also the seat of the new African Medical Agency (AMA), where vaccines, pharmaceuticals and drug technologies will be registered for the entire African Union. All in all, the vision is a "Life Science Platform".
Clinical trials training and African Biomanufacturing Institute
One of the upcoming project in the continuing cooperation is led by Professor Eleni Aklillu. Together with the International and Development office she has led the work to develop a plan under the MoU with Univeristy of Rwanda and Rwanda Biomedical centre to build clinical trials capacity. Both Stefan Swartling Peterson and Giulia Gaudenzi are working together with KTH in grant application processes to fund this project. Hopefully, Professor Eleni Aklillu and colleagues will be able to start Training of Trainers later this spring/early autumn.
Furthermore, Rwanda intends to build an advanced research institute like several other African countries have in life science such as the The Armauer Hansen Research Institute in Ethiopia, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) or the Noguchi Institute in Ghana. They seek cooperation with KI and Sweden to develop this institute, and to do joint research in the future.
"On this subject, I met with Minister of State, Minister of Health Yvan Butera, and former Rector Phil Cotton, as well as representatives of the Rwanda Development Board, who will be organising the application. I believe that it can become one of Africa's foremost Life Science platforms. Life Science actors in Stockholm should also be involved, so that an "ecosystem" can be built in Kigali", says Swartling Peterson.
"Rwanda and Kigali is one of Africa's most dynamic places right now. Karolinska Institutet has a unique opportunity to contribute to the fulfilment of our vision of Strategy 2030, and in the process gain access to unique research, teaching materials and markets."