It’s a great new week! We love new weeks, new beginnings, new hopes, dreams and aspirations! As the weather starts to change though, have you given a thought to how you might be affecting climate change in Africa? Continued from last week, do gain enlightenment as Prof. Ifeyinwa Achike leads the crusade to combat climate change in Nigeria and Africa. For Part 1 of this interview, go here.
K.A: Kindly give us a background on the Africa (ACCAI), University of Nigeria and the reason for its establishment.
Prof. Achike: ACCAI-UNN was primarily established to provide the needed institutional and academic support aimed at addressing the challenges posed by adverse climate change and climate variability on the national development efforts. The increasing need for enhanced human, institutional and system-wide capacity building initiatives plus the provision of adequate and predictable financial and technical assistance to help countries to effectively implement adaptation and mitigation projects consistent with the national sustainable development practices (UNEP, 2008) cannot be overemphasized.
To achieve this, the 12th Congress of the African Association of Universities (AAU), held in Abuja, April 2009, concluded that there is a need for urgent reforms in the current pedagogy, knowledge diffusion structures, mindsets of actors, reward systems, governance structures and policy frameworks for African universities to effectively engage in higher education for sustainable development including climate change adaptation. Hence, UNN’s timely and successful response to Open Society Foundation’s call to submit proposal for establishment of a climate change centre to provide a state of the art climate change adaptation initiative can be regarded as background to/for ACCAI-UNN.
K.A: It is indeed interesting to know that University of Nigeria is currently the only University where Climate Change Economics Policy and Innovation (CCEPI) is offered as a course in West Africa. Are there any plans to extend the initiative to other universities?
Prof. Achike: Of course, a key component of the current activities of ACCAI-UNN is upscale and mainstream climate change adaptation education to other Universities. At present, we are signing MOUs and establishing contacts via students and staff exchanges with other Universities in Nigeria and across the globe. It is envisioned that this will encourage the establishment of the initiative in other universities. We have also had and are still having collaborations with several institutions aimed at promoting, up scaling and getting wider publicity and buy-in for our Climate Change Economics Policy and Innovation (CCEPI) Programme. It is expected that in the long run, UNN-CCEPI will serve as a hub for emerging scholars on climate change adaption in Africa.
K.A: Can you tell us a bit more about the different programs available under this initiative?
Prof. Achike: Currently in CCEPI, we have postgraduate programmes including PGD, M.Sc. and PhD. These programmes have received the necessary approvals from the National Universities Commission (NUC) of Nigeria and University of Nigeria Senate. It is therefore a full-fledged programme of the University whose curriculum is structured to international standards. We are in the process of establishing short time courses on climate change, designed to suit the needs of mid-career workers who may wish to widen/update their knowledge of climate change.
K.A: What other opportunities exist for an intending academic scholar within your program?
Prof Achike: As earlier noted, under this programme there are opportunities for international exchanges for both staff and students. Precisely, students and staff can do their research works and teaching in other University outside the country where they find better/appropriate facilities for their works for specified periods of time. At the same time, staff and students from other Universities abroad can take advantage of our facilities here too.
K.A: Almost every undertaking faces some challenges; what major challenges have you encountered so far?
Prof. Achike: Being an international programme, we face the challenge of trying to meet with international standards. This requires a lot of time and extra training for both staff and students. Amongst other things, we also have the challenges of irregular power supply, ICT (internet, phone connectivity etc.), funds, office space and appropriate manpower to grapple with.
K.A: Financing is key; how do you obtain funds to run this project?
Prof. Achike: Primarily we are operating with the funding support of Open Society Foundation, USA. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) still pays the salaries of our key actors and occasionally, we compete for research grants to fund some of our ancillary activities.
K.A: Does the project contemplate any partnership with NGO’s, government, or other bodies?
Prof. Achike: Yes. This is a key activity of the project. We are currently in the process of signing MOUs with different corporate and civil society organizations. We are already collaborating with some of these organizations and we envisage that in the nearest future, our programme will gain wide visibility which will enhance our outreach prowess.
K.A: Nigeria and Africa will truly rise when?
Prof. Achike: When we cultivate the needed attitude to use our acquired and indigenous talents to harness the rich resources our nation is endowed with and plan sustainably for the present and future generations.
K.A: Inspire a young African in one sentence.
Prof. Achike: Cultivate the needed confidence to prosper your God given talent – We/I can!
To read the initial part of this enlightening interview, go here…
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