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Africa steps up to the research plate

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Climate change, political instability, inequality, migration and the burden of disease are some of the major challenges confronting humanity today, requiring collaboration across ideological, geographical and scientific borders, so that holistic, lasting solutions can be developed to benefit society.
And Africa needs to contribute to this process, says Professor Ernest Aryeetey, secretary-general of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA),
“Africa cannot be free if we do not adequately replicate in good measure the high level skills and pioneering research required to foster inclusive development on the continent, while making a unique, valuable contribution to the global knowledge economy,” he told the inaugural conference of ARUA, held at the University of Ghana.
“This alliance aims to facilitate collaboration, knowledge transfer, equipment sharing, the pooling of resources and the development of mutually beneficial partnerships across Africa,” Prof Aryeetey adds. “Researchers in the developing world should not merely be regarded as data collection hubs, or wellsprings of material waiting to be analysed, or footnotes in north-south collaboration projects.
“ARUA will strengthen the ability of researchers in Africa to be recognised as world-class generators and producers of new knowledge, capable of successfully accessing and managing resources and relationships in the global knowledge economy off our own bat.”
The alliance comprises of research intensive universities on the continent that prioritise the development of new knowledge, quality research and high level and scare skills through empowering and mentoring postgraduate and postdoctoral students.
Thirteen key thematic areas for collaboration have been identified:
* Climate change;
* Food security;
* Non-communicable diseases;
* Materials development and nanotechnology;
* Energy;
* Water conservation;
* Mobility and migration;
* Poverty and inequality;
* Unemployment and skills development;
* Notions of identity;
* Good governance;
* Post-conflict societies; and
* Urbanisation and habitable cities.
Professor Adam Habib, a member of the ARUA Executive Committee and Vice-Chancellor and principal of the University of Witwatersrand, provided an update on two key projects that are underway.
“The Migrations and Mobility theme is a great example of a universal issue that requires research at multiple levels, and which is best addressed by cosmopolitan teams within different socio-economic, political and historical contexts,” he says. “A dynamic research project in this area has already been launched through funding from the Mellon Foundation. The next project is focused on food security, which is another area that directly affects humanity the world over.”