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Boost for tertiary research in Africa

- By Wits University

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) was launched today, Tuesday, 10 March 2015, at the African Higher Education Summit in Dakar, Senegal.

The key aim of the Alliance is to use the pan-African network as a platform through which to strengthen research and postgraduate training on the continent. Fifteen research-strong partner universities are represented in the Alliance, with six from South Africa: 

  • Nigeria: University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University
  • Ghana:  University of Ghana
  • Tanzania: University of Dar es Salaam
  • South Africa:   University of the Witwatersrand, University of Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria, Rhodes University and the University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Kenya: University of Nairobi
  • Rwanda: University of Rwanda
  • Senegal: Université Cheikh Anta Diop
  • Uganda: Makerere University

“The primary focus of ARUA is to build indigenous research excellence with the intention of asserting Africa as a powerful global force,” says co-initiator of ARUA, Professor Adam Habib, who is also the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Dr Max Price, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and AURA co-initiator adds:  “The intention is to bring together our distinctive fields of expertise to achieve complementary and co-ordinated programmes of research and training, including addressing the key development priorities of the African continent.”

There are five challenges confronting African universities that ARUA will seek to address:

  • The complex economic, social and development problems of the continent that cannot be addressed by institutions working in isolation;
  • Transnational public policy and developmental strategies;
  • The need to compete in the global knowledge economy using innovation and technology to foster development, led by locally trained postgraduate students;
  • Opportunities for postgraduates to train at excellent universities in Africa without losing them to the global North; and
  • The need to recognise that academic talent, state of the art research facilities and financial resources are all limited and cannot be duplicated at individual institutions. Moreover, it is only viable to support a limited number of globally competitive research universities on the continent.

“The Alliance can only be successful if we have the commitment and support from key stakeholders in government, the higher education sector, and local and global funding agencies,” adds Habib. “Africa’s time is now – this is an opportunity for Africans to thrive and to contribute towards finding the solutions to the complex problems facing the development of our continent today, and in the future.”

The initial activities of ARUA will include collaborative research projects for staff, a doctoral research symposium for students to showcase their research and a capacity building programme to enhance the abilities of research managers and their respective offices.