Developement Cooperation in Curricula Building and Academic Research

The department ELEC has a long tradition in development cooperation with universities and institutes in the South. Projects with funding from the Belgian government for Development Cooperation already were undertaken from the eighties of last century with the Moi University in Eldoret Kenya, Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo, Surinam and ESPOL in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

With the support of the VLIR (Flemish Interuniversity Council) Prof. Leo Van Biesen from ELEC became leader (promoter) in two development cooperation projects in central Africa. Both projects, described in more detail in the next sections, aim to contribute in the rebuilding of the academic and/or professional education programmes, in improving the research facilities and in the formation by Master degrees and/or PhD of future academic staff personnel. Such projects belong either to the funding group of the VLIR Own Initiative group with partners in the countries of the development cooperation priorities of the Belgian Federal and Community governments with a medium term duration between 3 to 5 years, either to the VLIR Institutional University Cooperation programme (IUC) that facilitates a 12-year partnership between a university in the South and Flemish universities and university colleges. These programmes support the partner university in its triple function as provider of educational, research-related and societal services. It aims, as such, at empowering the local university as to better fulfil its role as development actor in society.

Project with ISTA, Kinshasa, Congo

The VLIR Own Initiative project with ISTA (l'Institut Supérieur de Techniques Appliquées), the largest engineering education institution in Kinshasa, the capital of the democratic republic of Congo (DRC), aims in upgrading the polytechnic institute towards a technological university. The original project title, as well as the description and reports are written in French only (Projet d'aide à la transformation de l'Institut Supérieur de Techniques Appliquées de Kinshasa en université technologique).

The Flemish promoter is Leo Van Biesen (Vrije Universiteit Brussel department ELEC). The local promoter is Prof. André Ahuka Shamba (ISTA).

The project started on December 31st of 2009 and will end on December 31st of 2014. The financial support of the project accounts 309 k€.

The project succeeded a short term mini project funded in 2008 also by the VLIR that allowed identifying the most relevant areas in which institutional cooperation with ISTA could be set-up.  To overcome the shortage of skilled engineers in the DRC, the highest political authorities of the DRC agreed - within the PADEM framework - to transform ISTA into Université Technologique de Kinshasa (UNITEK), which will be responsible for the training of both civil engineers and industrial engineers. The project's goal is to contribute to this transformation. To optimize the use of available resources and skills, the focus is put on the information and communication technology "ICT" and especially to electronics, computer science and telecommunication. The project focuses on three main categories: (1) Revision and development programs in ICT (in collaboration with VUB, KUL, Erasmushogeschool) (2) Training of Trainers (scholarships and internships at the VUB), (3) The equipment of laboratories in ISTA, in particular the development of WiMAX and WiFi networks.

In 2013 two senior assistants of ISTA, Joséphine Mpole and Jean Lukwesa, visited the ELEC department for 3 months training. Next to following lectures and courses on the master level of engineering education programmes, large attention was attributed to the development and the setting up of new laboratory experiments for engineering students in telecommunication. The set-ups were developed at ELEC and the material for future duplication was shipped to ISTA en Kinshasa. 

Patrick Kapita from ISTA is following the Master in Applied Computer Science at the engineering faculty of the VUB.

The local promoter, Prof. André Ahuka, and the head of ISTA (director general) Prof. Pierre Kasengedia, also visited ELEC in 2013 for 2 weeks.

UIC Project with the University of Burundi Bujumbura, Burundi

The VLIR Institutional cooperation with Université du Burundi, Burundi, is a project with a duration and 12 years that started in 2011. The Flemish programme coordinator is Prof. Filip Reyntjens (University of Antwerp) and the local programme coordinator is Prof. Samuel Bigawa. The project consists of 5 major subprojects and 1 subproject responsible for the management and reporting. Prof. Leo Van Biesen (ELEC) is promoter of subproject 5 that deals with new communication and information technologies and support to the library. The local project leader is Prof. Léonard Batururimi.

The 5 subprojects are listed below:

1.     Strengthening teaching and research capacity in basic sciences and pharmacy.

2.     Contribution to the improvement of medical education, research and to the quality of health care in the community

3.     Rural development and food security in the provinces of Ngozi and Kayanza

4.     Capacity building for teaching and research in the Faculty of Law

5.     New communication and information technologies and support to the library

The Université du Burundi (UB) is the only public university of the country and is located in the capital Bujumbura. It started an IUC programme in 2010 that fully subscribed to the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers) development priorities of a post-conflict area. In this context the University of Burundi is to be reinforced in its role of development actor towards society through interventions of higher education and research. As such, a partnership with the Flemish universities and university colleges is established and sustainable scientific cooperation implemented.

The IUC programme encompasses 5 thematic projects, basic sciences, rural health, food security, development of the Rule of Law and ICT and library development. Most of the projects are campus-based but projects 2 and 3 operate in the North of the country in the provinces of Ngozi, Kirundo and Muyinga. The partnership proudly carries the label 'Kubadilishana Mawazo, Kugeuza Maisha' or 'Sharing minds, Changing lives' in Kiswahili.

For more information on the programme, you can also visit the UB - VLIR-UOS website (

The local promoter of subproject 5, Prof. Léonard Batururimi, and the Dean of the faculty of engineering at the University of Burundi, Prof. William Sahinguvu, visited the department ELEC in 2013 for 2 weeks. Eloge Bapfunya received a 3 months training in ICT and telecom at the departments ELEC and ETRO of the VUB and Egide Nshimirimana is following the Master in Applied Computer Science at the engineering faculty of the VUB.

The yearly envelope of subproject 5 is about 75 k€.


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