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[KAMPALA] Uganda and Sweden have signed a US$32 million research collaboration agreement to increase the capacity of Ugandan public universities to generate knowledge and promote research uptake for national and regional development.

The research collaboration signed last month (3 November) to run for five years will involve five universities in Uganda and 11 Swedish universities, according to Urban Andersson, Sweden’s ambassador to Uganda.

“Researchers will delve into subjects such as governance, social protection, climate change, infectious diseases, food security, communication technology, gender, sexuality, religion and ethics,” Andersson explains.

“Researchers will delve into subjects such as governance, social protection, climate change, infectious diseases, food security, communication technology, gender, sexuality, religion and ethics.”

Urban Andersson, Swedish Embassy, Uganda

Matia Kasaija, Uganda’s minister for finance, planning and economic development, says the agreement will support government efforts to strengthen local doctoral training in Uganda’s public universities.

Makerere University will administer the grant which aims to fund 125 doctoral studies, 147 master’s studies and 65 post-doctoral fellowships, says Katri Pohjolainen Yap, the senior research advisor and first secretary for research collaboration at the Swedish Embassy in Uganda. It will also support 17 joint research projects selected from 72 letters of intent written jointly by Swedish and Ugandan university researchers.

Yap adds that the Swedish government will provide the US$32 million for research, with the Government of Uganda expected to continue paying the salaries of the local researchers.

Sweden and Uganda had a 15-year partnership in research and development during which all funded doctoral studies took place in Sweden. The new agreement will ensure that only 20 of the 125 doctoral studies will occur in Sweden, Yap said.

John Ddumba-Ssentamu, vice-chancellor of Uganda-based Makerere University, says the universities will nurture experts to formulate problems and create knowledge.

Kyambogo University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) will each train 16 doctoral students as Gulu University and Busitema University train 13 and five doctoral students respectively, while 100 of the 147 master’s scholarships will be equally distributed among the four universities, says Nestor Mugabe, research programme administrator at Makerere University.

The rest of the training opportunities will be distributed among various research teams at Makerere University.

One project to be jointly implemented by four Ugandan universities and Sweden-based Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet focuses on developing evidence to improve treatment of infectious diseases among children in rural Uganda.

“Our environment is rife with misuse of antibiotics,” principal investigator Celestino Obua, who is also the vice-chancellor of MUST, tells SciDev.Net, noting that treating children with poor quality antibiotics increases morbidity and cost of treatment.

“When you are using inefficient or ineffective medicine, it is like pouring money down the drain,” Obua says, adding that the project is expected to among other outcomes, improve economic productivity of rural women by reducing the time spent nursing sick children. Leif Abrahamsson, the director of the international science programme at Uppsala University, hopes that cross-border collaborations with other Sweden-funded initiatives can spread research outcomes into the East African region.

Nadine Pakker, the director of clinical operations at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, which also supports medical research capacity building at Makerere University, recommends the formation of constructive collaborations among donor-funded research programmes.
Pakker says a research support centre the institute intends to launch next year can attract European donors to enable joint research coordination.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa (English) desk.