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April 5, 2021 (JIGJIGA, Ethiopia): The Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, yesterday inaugurated the 1st IGAD Universities Forum at Jigjiga University in Ethiopia. Also in attendance were the President of the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia, H.E. Mustafe Muhemed Omer, and the State Minister for Science and Higher Education of Ethiopia, Professor Afework Kassu. 

At the opening of the Forum, the Executive Secretary also took the opportunity to officially launch the IGAD Scholarship and Award Programme. 
A number of universities that include the University of Khartoum; the International University of Africa based in Khartoum, Kampala International University, and Gigjiga University respectively signed Memorandum of Understanding with IGAD  The International University of Africa pledged 200 scholarships to benefit the most vulnerable students in the region. 
Participants to the Forum are drawn from universities in the IGAD region. Twenty (20) universities from IGAD member countries are represented by their Vice Rector/Chancellor/President for Academic Affairs and their Vice Chancellor/President/Director for Research and Community Outreach. 
In his opening remarks, the Executive Secretary pledged that IGAD and its partners were ‘ready to provide all the necessary support to promote inter-university and regional cooperation in higher education, science, technology and innovation’.

As for the IGAD Scholarships Programme, Dr Workneh stressed that ‘special emphasis will be given to candidates, particularly girls, from refugee and displacement affected communities’. 

During the two-day event, universities in attendance had the opportunity to showcase their programmes and share experiences; and agree on future collaboration. They explored prospects of joint research opportunities and for collaboration on issues of migration and forced displacement. 

The Forum also explored the role universities can play in enhancing the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Refugees, the Djibouti Declaration, the existing IGAD Regional Education Policy Framework and the IGAD Regional Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Strategy, and the IGAD Regional Qualifications Framework which is under preparation. 

At the closing of the Forum today, it was agreed that a Regional Consultative Forum will be established by the universities in attendance. This shall later be enhanced to include other institutions of higher learning from the region. An IGAD Council of Higher Education was also established. 

The 1st IGAD Universities Forum is organised with support from the German government and Education Cannot Wait, and in partnership with UNESCO, the European Union and the UNHCR.


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