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New Africa University program yields first graduates

Africa University's graduating class of 2007 includes 25 recipients of its new Master of Public Sector Management degree. The United Methodist-related, pan-African institution's 13th graduation ceremony was held June 9 in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens.

By Andra Stevens*
June 19, 2007 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

Meseret Kebede

Twenty-five public servants from eight African countries have left Africa University with new training and credentials aimed at making their public service systems more effective, efficient and accountable.

"The public service in Africa has fallen below the expectations of the public because of rampant corruption, the failure of systems and procedures or the lack of enforcement of these by governments," said Kennedy Nyambati, a participant from Kenya.

Nyambati was among those receiving degrees in Public Sector Management on June 9 at the university’s 13th graduation ceremony. It was the first time the United Methodist-related, pan-African institution awarded its new Master of Public Sector Management degree.

The graduates enrolled in the program in 2006 and completed 13 months of intensive training to help them manage public enterprises and human capital, nurture entrepreneurship and induce positive change in the public sector in their respective countries. They came from Kenya, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Nyambati is a chief inspector in the Inspectorate of State Corporations Unit in the Office of the President-Cabinet in Kenya. The unit is responsible for investigating cases of misappropriated public funds and works to ensure that public resources are allocated to and used by designated recipients and projects.

As he returns to his work in the Inspectorate, Nyambati is considering ways to improve the performance of the public service in his own country and throughout Africa.

"There needs to be a well-organized legal system that is independent from politics … and the attitude of civil servants must change, but this can only happen if they are remunerated properly and adequately trained," he said. "All in all, good governance lies in the leadership. Is there the political will to stamp out nepotism, misappropriation of funds and all other forms of corruption?"

Fellow graduate Meseret Kebede said the program enhanced his knowledge of human resources management, public finance, ethics and professionalism.

A senior specialist in human resources management from the Federal Civil Service Agency in Ethiopia, Kebede was one of two people nominated for the training program by the Ethiopian government.

"I found the program relevant," said Charity Simelane, a member of the Public Sector Reform Unit of Swaziland’s Ministry of Public Service. "In my country, certain public sector reforms are already under way. This training will help me to contribute more effectively and it will aid in my professional advancement."

A sound investment

The Public Sector Management program was developed in collaboration with and funded by the African Capacity Building Foundation.

"(It) is the most important program undertaken by the foundation in terms of its mandate," said Soumana Sako, the foundation's executive secretary. The desired outcome is that African governments and public enterprises become more effective at delivering economic growth, good governance, social stability and improved quality of life to the nations they serve.

The management program was designed to enhance governmental effectiveness and enrich the ongoing debate over critical decisions that affect citizens’ lives as they relate to the Millennium Development Goals, said Jean-Gilbert Ilunga, dean of the university’s Faculty of Management and Administration.

Charity Simelane

"As Andrew Young rightfully put it: 'Wonderful visions and great ideas only become reality when skilled and courageous public administrators make things happen in the lives of real people and actual situations,'" Ilunga said.

"We, at Africa University and the Faculty of Management and Administration in particular, are certain that we have succeeded in inculcating the notions of an efficient and effective public administrator in this pioneering group whose impact in their respective government ministries and departments will be felt for a long time to come."

Developing for the future

The public sector initiative has three components: the new master’s degree program; short-term, non-degree professional training offered in various countries to mid- to senior-level officials working in government ministries, agencies and public enterprises; and activities to improve training at national public sector training institutions in at least eight African countries.

In 2006, the African Capacity Building Foundation committed $12 million a year for four consecutive years to the effort.

Africa University was the first and only private institution the foundation chose for the role. The foundation’s grant of $3 million for the launch of the Public Sector Management Training Program in the 2006/2007 academic year was the largest single award for academic development in the university’s 14-year history.

The program is hosted through the university’s Faculty of Management & Administration discipline in collaboration with the Institute of Peace, Leadership & Governance.

Recruitment of a second cohort of 30 participants is progressing. There are 49nominees competing for the 30 training slots, and three additional countries (Botswana, Mozambiqueand Tanzania) are sending senior officials to the program for the first time.

The African Capacity Building Foundation was established in 1991 to respond to the persistent problem of inadequate skills, knowledge and institutions in all sectors of the African economies by placing strong emphasis on quality and sustainability. The foundation was created through the efforts of the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, African governments and bilateral donors.

*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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