The Federal Government of Nigeria hosted the 9th edition of the meeting of stakeholders in the West and Central Africa Research and Education Network (WACREN), with the theme “ Charting the Course: Forging Future-Ready Higher Education and Research communities,” at the Abuja Continental Hotel Abuja.

Declaring the meeting open,  the Honourable Minister of Education (HME), Professor Tahir Mamman, SAN, OON,  restated the need for collective commitment and collaboration within the African region in order to advance education and research activities as education remained the bedrock of every modern society.  Professor Tahir said in Nigeria’s quest for national and regional development as well as global competitiveness, its Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) must harness the power of research and education to propel the African continent forward. He added that the growth and development of the continent depended largely on our research output. He stressed, whether in the field of healthcare, technology, agriculture, engineering or governance, the solution to Africa’s  most pressing issues lay in the innovative minds and scholarly endeavours of its research and educators.

According to him, the conference provided a unique opportunity for the exchange of ideas, to share best practices and forge partnerships that would move the continent’s education system to a higher level. He said in line with the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, the Federal Ministry of Education  (FME) under his leadership, had developed a roadmap to transform the educational sector.

Earlier, in his welcome remarks, the Acting Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, (NUC),  Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki, said the theme chosen for this year’s WACREN  Conference could not be more timely or relevant than now. This he said, was more so in an era defined by political and economic advancement in Society and complex global challenges where the role of higher educational research had become more appreciated. The Acting Executive Secretary, represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary, (DES), Academics, Dr.  Noel Biodun Saliu, said as representatives of Academic institutions, research organizations, telecommunications and service providers from across the globe, everyone of them shared the responsibility to ensure that African higher institutions were equipped to meet the demands of the future. He said this required WACREN to be proactive, innovative and prompt in thinking so as to devise the right approach to teaching, learning and research.

The Acting Executive stressed that the theme of the conference underscored the importance of inter-disciplinary collaborations and the need to cultivate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among the students. He said in the coming years, the stakeholders would continue to engage in thought provoking discussions, share best practices and explore innovative solution that tackled challenges of their immediate communities.

He said the Nigerian University System (NUS) would thrive more by leveraging the infrastructure which NgREN provided as it would help to continue to reposition the nation’s universities to remain globally competitive. He used the forum to extend his sincere gratitude to the sponsors and partners of the conference.

In his speech, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WACREN, Dr. Boubakar Barry, said with the test brought about by COVID-19 and being fortified by the challenges posed by its rippling effects across the continent, RENs and the higher education fraternity need to draw lessons from that past so as to define a sustainable future.

He reiterated that the conference was unique as it served as the forum for all stakeholders in the ecosystem to chart the course of a common future with a common resolve. In his words, “we are hoping for a highly interactive string of events where various stakeholders will deliberate on matters of community interests for the development of research and education on our side of the world.”

Dr.Barry further stated that as critical stakeholders in advancing digital connectivity and fostering collaboration across Nigeria’s research and educational landscape, NgREN was proud to have spearheaded initiatives that empowered academic and scientific communities in Nigerian Universities System.

According to him, this initiatives were undertaken through innovation, partnership and commitment to excellence, noting that NgREN would continue to shape the future of education and research in Nigeria.

Major highlight of the Conference include some Keynote speeches from the Minister for Higher Education in Sierra Leone, Dr. Haja Ramatulaiwurie and former Executive Secretary of NUC and Chairman Council, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Professor Peter A.Okebukola, OFR.