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AU on track despite challenges in Zimbabwe

Africa University has strategies for continued growth despite the economic struggles facing Zimbabwe, the United Methodist school's vice chancellor said.

"We are not saying that it is doom and gloom because we are people of faith; our mettle emerges during difficult times. That is when we show what we can do as leaders of this university," Munashe Furusa said.

In his report to the Africa University board of directors, Furusa said Zimbabwe is facing challenges that include fiscal deficit, inflationary pressures and foreign currency shortages.

There is erratic availability of commodities, rapid changes in prices of basic goods and increased operational costs, he said.

Africa University Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa, left, and Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa tour a refurbished hostel for student housing, one of many upgrades at the United Methodist university that were highlighted during the fall board meeting. In the background is AU board member Charlie Moore. Photo by Eveline Chikwanah, UMNS.

"Our response has always been closer communication with our stakeholders. We look at those variables that are within our purview and we control those, and for the other variables that we cannot control, we try to figure out how to minimize the impact," Furusa said.

"We have become a nimble university community. We have said we need to put wheels on our feet," he said.
The key costs incurred by the institution are electricity, staff, transportation, repairs and refurbishments. One building that houses students was recently refurbished at a cost of $39,000.

"As we try to hire the best and brightest staff, it is going to cost us more, but we are determined because our guiding principles are prudence and efficiency, achieving more with less," he said.

"We are growing all the time in spite of the prevailing economic challenges," he said.

Africa University is currently rated 4.0 by the Zimbabwean government. The rating means the university offers the four elements of teaching, research, community engagement and innovations. The highest grade is 5.0, which includes business enterprise development.

Furusa said the university is looking for partners to develop an agro-industrial park, where farmers in the Manicaland province where the university is located could refrigerate produce so it won't spoil before they get it to market. He said the park could also provide a market for selling the produce.

He also expressed gratitude for a grant from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry that was used to develop a pre-doctoral certificate program in theology and religion.

The grant "will make AU the center for intellectual engagement in matters relating to theology and religious studies. It is going to support key scholars from Africa and the world to come and conduct seminars for candidates and surrounding communities," he said.

The university has become the center for intellectual property studies in the region.

Eveline Chikwanah, communicator of the Zimbabwe East Conference.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.

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