In the statement, the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) appeal to African leaders to recognise the outstanding potential of Africa’s public universities in strengthening Africa’s knowledge society. The signatories of the statement highlight the need for a strong research ecosystem in Africa if the continent is to undertake a structural and sustainable transformation, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Producing most of the scientific output in Africa, public universities are central actors of the research ecosystem. At the same time, they face significant obstacles hampering the production of large-scale and impactful knowledge. In light of comparatively low spending on research and innovation, and of the rapid population growth of African societies, there has been insufficient recognition of the importance of research-led education. This has also led to an overreliance on northern research partners and has resulted in a brain drain of outstanding academics.
To overcome these challenges, Vice-Chancellors and Rectors from sixteen leading African universities, part of the ARUA network, call for the identification and development of interdisciplinary Clusters of Excellence at African universities. The research Clusters would provide long-term academic career prospects, strengthen South-South and equitable South-North research partnerships, and address key strategic areas of Africa’s transformation. Ahead of the EU-AU Summit, ARUA also invites African governments and the AU to make the creation of these Clusters of Excellence and the strengthening of research infrastructures at African universities a priority of the summit. ARUA urges African governments to ‘walk the talk’ by committing to earmark the budget necessary for the general improvement of the research ecosystem in Africa.
The Guild strongly supports the initiative led by ARUA, a long-standing and trusted partner, with whom The Guild has jointly advocated for the funding of more Clusters of Excellence on the African continent.
Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of The Guild, said: “The ARUA statement articulates persuasively how African universities can strengthen their contribution to global knowledge production, and support the transformation of their regions, through cutting-edge interdisciplinary research clusters strengthening inter-African collaboration, and developing equitable north-south partnerships.”
He went on to note that “Strengthening African universities through competitive clusters of excellence must now become a central pillar of the new AU-EU strategic partnership, as advocated by ARUA, The Guild, and twenty European Rectors’ conferences.”