Malawi president hints on MAREN connectivity, promises education levies to boost research sector

Malawi president Arthur Peter Mutharika has ignited a flicker of hope for the Malawi Research and Education Network (MAREN) by pledging to connect the network to the regional research and education network and introducing a levy to help fund the country’s research sector.

President Mutharika, who was appointed Champion for Higher Education in Africa last year, made the pledge when he presided over the graduation ceremony of the University of Malawi, (UNIMA) at the Chancellor College in Zomba on 23rd March, 2016.

Speaking during the ceremony, President Mutharika called on the country’s universities to revamp their research directorates so that they able to generate and utilize research funds intelligently saying research is the heartbeat of every university and a crucial tool for solving societal problems.

The President said his government would ensure that MAREN is activated (connected to the regional backbone) so that the country’s public universities are connected to the rest of the region and are able to access academic and research information beyond all boundaries.

“We will soon activate the Malawi Research and Education Network  (MAREN) meaning our public universities will be connected with the rest of the world. This will change the quality of our research and graduates and our public universities will serve our society with better informed solutions to our problems,” he said.

The presidential assurance comes as UbuntuNet Alliance has started the implementation of the European Commission co-funded AfricaConnect2 project under which the Alliance is expected to install a Point of Presence (PoP) in Blantyre, South of Malawi that will connect MAREN to the UbuntuNet network via the Alliances’ PoP in Lusaka, Zambia.

The president also hinted on the introduction of a levy for university education that he said would help universities to stop being too reliant on government subventions.

He said: “It is hardly sustainable to depend on direct subvention to fund research and infrastructure. We need to rethink our ways and change the way we finance higher education. The government will therefore introduce an education levy to fund research and infrastructure in higher education.”

MAREN is one of the founding members of the UbuntuNet Alliance and its connection to the regional backbone is expected to leverage bandwidth costs for research and education institutions that operate in one of the countries with the high Internet tariffs on the African continent.

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