South-South partnership to boost African research capacity

A new partnership between South Africa’s University of Pretoria and the Kenya-headquartered Partnership for African Social Governance Research (PASGR) will boost capacity-building, especially for postgraduate students and early- to mid-career researchers in Africa.

The collaboration, formalised this week (21 September) during a virtual meeting of senior staff from the two institutions and other higher education experts from Africa, will be led by the University of Pretoria (UP) and PASGR and implemented in collaboration with Nigeria’s University of Ibadan and Kenya’s University of Nairobi.

The partnership will be anchored under five flagship programmes of PASGR, including the collaborative doctoral programme in public policy to be offered by UP, University of Ibadan and University of Nairobi. For this programme, PASGR has received seed funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to support 15 fellows and pilot the doctoral programme at the three universities.

Other programmes include a collaborative masters programme in research and public policy; a pedagogical leadership in Africa programme; a research and policy training programme for early- to mid-career researchers; and collaborative research grants relating to important public policy issues in Africa.

According to a statement about the partnership, it will also focus on strengthening public policy through other initiatives such as the research partnership programme between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the African Research Universities Alliance’s (ARUA) Food Systems Research Networks for Africa project which seeks to “strengthen food systems research capabilities and the translation of evidence into implementable policy solutions and practical interventions” in support of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development.

“Partnerships are key to how higher education should be reimagined post COVID-19,” said UP Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe.

“This collaboration will establish a model for partnership between universities and non-profit organisations,” said Kupe.

PASGR Executive Director Professor Tade Aina described the partnership as another “landmark event” in building excellence in social sciences, the arts and humanities.

“This is an intellectual and academic relationship that is central to Africa and will bring out the innovation, creativity and work needed to build the continent,” said Aina.

He said despite the challenges facing African universities and countries, the partnership should pave the way for further collaborations aimed at building better universities.

UP Director of Institutional Planning Dr Gerald Ouma said collaborations had become a necessity and this was amplified by COVID-19. He said the continent would need more international networks of collaboration to support young and upcoming academics and early- to mid-career researchers.

Dr Beatrice Muganda, Director of Higher Education Programme at PASGR, said the partnership would help students across Africa to develop competencies for shaping public policy across a wide spectrum of sectors, from social issues such as identity crises, to migration, security, food systems and public health.

She said it would help students and academics from Africa to benefit from the knowledge and skills of the host universities.

Kupe described the partnership as a South-South collaboration that will help develop knowledge that can be translated into programmes solving critical issues of development in Africa.

Professor Karuti Kanyinga, a PASGR board member, said it would give international visibility to African intellectual products and help to drive an agenda that is anchored on African ideals and help to bridge interdisciplinary gaps.

Kanyinga expressed concern that many countries in Africa still neglect research and evidence in policy-making, a culture the partnership will endeavour to change, he said. “This partnership will help lobby African governments to use evidence in decision-making. The more we have such partnerships, the greater the voice of African scholars in policy-making.”

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