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GEA fast gaining a global outlook as foreign delegations seek partnership

Mount Kenya University’s desire to slay the dragon that is youth unemployment in Africa is attracting a growing army of international partners.

The university’s weapon, the Graduate Enterprise Academy (GEA), has grown in stature and has expanded since its establishment in 2014.

MKU Graduate Enterprise Academy  guest from University of Cape Coast and Bonn-Rhein Sieg University  after a meeting with representatives of GEA apprentices at MKU Main Campus, ThikaMKU Graduate Enterprise Academy guest from University of Cape Coast and Bonn-Rhein Sieg University after a meeting with representatives of GEA apprentices at MKU Main Campus, ThikaAs its overseer Prof Peter Wanderi reports, GEA’s structures and products have been described as “unique and astounding”.

On 25 January, two foreign teams keen to contribute to GEA’s success visited MKU’s main campus in Thika town.

The teams of professors from the University of Cape Coast (Ghana) and Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University (BRSU) of Applied Sciences (Germany), engaged with the MKU team on issues of mutual interest.

The partnership discussions with BRSU started in 2014, and bore multiple benefits after a meeting at BRSU last year. Prof Wanderi attended the meeting.

The visit by Prof Juergen Bode and Dr Udo Scheuer of BRSU, and by Prof Mrs Rosemond Boohene of UCC, led to hearty discussions with GEA beneficiaries. The apprentices made moving presentations of their businesses.

GEA coaches and the School of Business and Economics faculty, led by their Dean, Dr Evans Mwiti, participated in the discussions.

The delegation also met with Prof Evans Kerosi, the Deputy VC in charge of Administration and Institutional Advancement. They also met with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) for Student Welfare and Alumni Affairs, Mr Peter Waweru.

After GEA’s establishment in 2014, the MKU Board of Directors (BoD) committed Ksh40 million to be used up to 2019 to shape the initiative into what its patron, Prof Simon N. Gicharu, envisioned it would become. The initiative has since acquired a life of its own.

Some Norwegian investors have already expressed interest in partnering with the initiative. Additionally, one United Kingdom-based university – the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) – is willing to embark on a partnership with GEA in a fully-structured and refined approach.

UWC will also partner with the proposed Graduate Enterprise Academy Rwanda (GEAR), whose idea stems from the effectiveness of the Kenyan version – GEA.

Prof Wanderi says GEA is currently receiving applications for the third cohort. Their training starts in April.

The second cohort, comprising 15 apprentices, is set to be commissioned in a ceremony at MKU’s main campus in Thika by the end of March.

Says Prof Wanderi: “This brings to a conclusion of the year-long training, mentoring and networking, which started in April 2016 and ends in March 2017.”

GEA mentored nine apprentices in the first cohort, then increased the number to 15.

The academy will take in alumni from other universities in the third cohort. It will reserve a 40 per cent quota for MKU graduates and leave the rest – 60 per cent – to alumni from all other universities in Kenya.

The target for the third cohort is 50 – more than three times the number set to be commissioned in March.

“We mentor the graduate apprentices in between some three week-end boot camps,” explains Prof Wanderi. “The last boot camp comes as an exhibition before the participants are commissioned from GEA.”

GEA, he adds, is meant to respond to the continued scarcity of jobs for graduates in Kenya and other parts of Africa. Hence, it is an effort towards enabling graduates to be job and wealth creators by employing themselves and other youths.”

Prof Wanderi says: “When the University was chartered in 2011, MKU founder and GEA patron, Prof Gicharu, realised it was necessary to enhance graduates’ employability. This is because each year in Africa, more graduates enter the job market than the number of jobs created. It is not surprising that at an international forum in Bonn, Germany, last year, a case was presented of Ghana, which has an association of jobless graduates – the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana.”