MSc, PhD programmes in Biotechnology launched in partnership between Team Europe and University of Rwanda

On 6 April 2023 at 02:59

A new Master of Science (MSc) programme in Biotechnology was launched on Wednesday, 5 April 2023 in Rwanda to ensure sustainable local production and improved access to quality assured vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa.

In its agenda vision 2050, the Government of Rwanda sets a pathway that will lead the country to living standards of upper middle-income countries by 2035 and high-income countries by 2050. Rwanda is hence targeting to develop high-growth knowledge-driven sectors, which can enable the envisioned rapid social economic transformation, while providing the necessary conditions to build required industrial research and development (R&D) capability, including a competent workforce.

The MSc in Biotechnology programme, hosted by the University of Rwanda, responds to that vision and has been developed in the broader human capital development program, which includes also training of PhDs in Biotechnology.

The launch of the programme also follows Government of Rwanda’s vision to become a regional hub for next-generation biomanufacturing. This is supported by the Team Europe’s initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa (MAV+) under the EU Global Gateway strategy. At continental level, it equally represents a milestone under the talent development bold programme of the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM).

Speaking at the event, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Rwanda, Dr. Didas Kayihura Muganga explained that the program is currently offered at the undergraduate level for students to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology.

He highlighted that advanced knowledge is necessary for conducting deep research leading to the discovery of drugs, medical equipment, and other important innovations.

Dr. Kayihura expressed confidence that the program will produce qualified workforce for the country’s vaccine manufacturing facility.

The University of Rwanda has also signed agreements with partner institutions for the successful implementation of this project.

Commenting on the development, the Ambassador of the European Union to Rwanda, Belén CALVO UYARRA, stated; “The EU in Rwanda and Team Europe are proud to announce the launch of the MSc and PhD programmes in biotechnology at the University of Rwanda. It brings together the expertise of EU member states’ universities to train the future Rwandan workforce on academic and industrial aspects of biotechnology, vaccine development and manufacturing. It is also another important milestone displaying EU’s full commitment to boost local manufacturing capacities in Africa and strengthen pharmaceutical systems and health equity.”

The MSc programme, supported through the Kwigira programme of the European Union in Rwanda and Enabel - the Belgian development agency, will be implemented in partnership with different European universities as well as other global academic and research networks.

Bert Versmessen, Ambassador of Belgium to Rwanda said; “The launch of this MSc PhD program is a showcase of what Team Europe can contribute to Rwanda’s ambitions in the biotech sector. The first seed of cooperation between Belgian universities and the University of Rwanda was planted 5 years ago with Belgian development funding. Other universities from France and Cameroon have joined the initiative and the EU stepped in with additional funding to turn this into a full-fledged educational program. The students going through this program will become the human capital required to turn Rwanda into a biotech pioneer on the continent.”

Developing a pole of competence in biotechnology is one of the toolkits that would strengthen higher learning, research and innovation, and position the country as a benchmark for the sub-region in the field of biotechnology, in particular by promoting the generation and production of added value bio-products and bioprocesses of economic importance.

“The programme launched today will serve as backbone support for the Government of Rwanda’s strategic initiative to establish a biomanufacturing plant to supply the country and continent. Skills delivered through the course will have growing impact on climate change and climate-resilient agriculture,” said Yvan Butera, Rwanda’s State Minister for Health.

25 students (medical doctors, biologists, pharmacists) will be recruited for the MSc programme each intake, aiming to train 100 skilled MSc graduates in 4 years. 5 PhD candidates will also be supported. Lecturers from European countries will provide distance and onsite training, with a common core in the first year and internship training/research responding to local health needs in the second year.

About MAV+

Following the call by African leaders in April 2021, the Team Europe Initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa (MAV+) exists since May 2021. It contributes to create an enabling environment for local manufacturing of health products and helps tackle barriers on both supply and demand sides. MAV+ has already mobilised 1.1 billion and is contributing to several complementary projects across the continent, in close coordination with the PAVM hosted by the Africa CDC. Team Europe is coordinated by the European Commission and integrates EU Member States as well as European financing institutions.

About the KWIGIRA programme

As part of the MAV+ initiative, the EU-Enabel programme “Kwigira” supports the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority in its regulatory functions, laboratory equipment, the digital transformation and upgrading of pharmaceutical systems, strengthening of quality control laboratories and skills development. It is implemented by Enabel with financing from the European Union.

About Global Gateway

Global Gateway is the European strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors, and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world. Global Gateway investments support efforts in vaccine deployment, infrastructure and production capacities, skills development, regulatory frameworks and universal health coverage.