African universities need strategic alliances

Three female students, wearing gowns and mortar boards
Copyright: Alfredo D'Amato/Panos

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  • African universities should join hands to address common problems
  • Effective international alliances could also help address problems
  • But Africa should address intellectual property concerns of such partnerships

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[KASANE, BOTSWANA] A well-coordinated partnership among African universities and research institutions is crucial for building institutional capacities for socio-economic development, a meeting has heard.
The 10th general assembly of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), which was held in Botswana last month (21-22 June) in partnership with the Botswana Institute for Technology Research & Innovation and Botswana International University of Science and Technology, noted that such a partnership could help create research leaders.
Botswana’s President Seretse Ian Khama told participants said that intra-Africa collaborations should be encouraged, especially given that African countries often face similar problems.

“Sub-Saharan Africa depends heavily on international collaborations and visiting faculty for research outputs.”

Esi Awuah, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Ghana


“International collaboration is also necessary as the continent is part of the global community,”Khama added. .
Khama explained that while it is important that individual researchers increase their publications and their profiles, universities and institutions should ensure that they achieve the right balance between institutional and individual development so that they are not left in a lurch when individuals leave.
According to Khama, science, technology and innovation are important drivers of socio-economic development, and thus relevant research should be conducted and dissemination of the results should be encouraged.
Esi Awuah, vice-chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Ghana, calls for funding that will provide a degree of independence to set Africa agenda and help build the capacity of African institutions to conduct research that meets local needs.
“Sub-Saharan Africa depends heavily on international collaborations and visiting faculty for research outputs,” she said.
Awuah explains that it is time to come up with a strategic partnerships that can deliver results and lasting outcomes, thus making Africa a knowledge-based continent.
Dominic Makawiti, a professor at Kenya’s University of Nairobi, encourages win-win strategic situation for universities and research institutes by formulating joint research proposals for funding.
He called upon Africa policymakers to take action on intellectual property concerns arising from collaboration to ensure African universities and research institutions gain from such partnerships.

“Rapid expansion of universities with shortage number of staff, lack of equipment for research and little time for research are some of the challenges facing Africa continent which should be addressed in order to easily attract collaborations,” Makawiti said.
African universities and research institutions should maximise on the opportunities collaborations provide in ensuring access to world-class researchers to create more research leaders, Makawiti explained, indicating that effective alliances could boost development of local technologies to transform Africa.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.