There is broad agreement that Africa needs tens of thousands more PhDs, to renew an ageing professoriate and to staff rapidly expanding higher education, boost research and generate the high-level skills growing economies need. How is this to be achieved? Last week African university leaders and experts thrashed out a range of proposals, including on networks and collaboration, supervision incentives and the diaspora, political support and funding.
Universities are the anchors, shapers and innovators of nations. Universities also provide the mechanisms for building and rebuilding nations. During the independence period, African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah believed that higher education would be critical to development and growth.
Stories emerging about black students’ experiences in South African universities are nothing short of tragic. Higher education needs to get to grips with transformation. There is no silver bullet, but rethinking how our universities are governed must be central to our efforts.
The Times Higher Education, one of the publishers of global university rankings, recently co-hosted an Africa Universities Summit titled “Moving Africa’s Universities Forward: Building a shared global legacy”. Disappointingly, this took place in the absence of critical African players, despite indicating that the summit included a consultation on regional university rankings.
Strengthening African scientists’ capacity to conduct credible peer review would be one small step to improving the quality of the continent’s science and building the skills of its scientists. Both are key to helping Africa develop its own research agenda.
The rapid expansion of government funding for science in South Africa is perhaps surprising given the present climate of spending cutbacks amid urgent social priorities. Funding for public science in South Africa has increased by 71% in five years. It will reach R7.6 billion in 2015-16.
The old University of Botswana and the new Botswana International University of Science and Technology, both public institutions, have been experiencing a time of turmoil. At one university the vice-chancellor has faced challenges. The other’s leader resigned after only 17 months and left the country.
In Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, more than 200 hidden cameras are snapping photos day and night, capturing the secret lives of the Serengeti’s most elusive animals. When we found ourselves with even more pictures than the 1.6 million wildebeest and zebra that take part in the annual migration, we turned to citizen scientists to work through the images and extract the valuable information they contain.
The recent news that thousands of would-be students had withdrawn from the University of Zambia where they were accepted to pursue studies because they could not get government bursaries is disgraceful.
When Nigeria's Dangote Group advertised for 100 truck driver jobs in 2012, six PhDs, 704 masters and more than 8,460 bachelor degree holders were among the 13,000 applicants. Why were the applicants not employed in careers they trained for? We argue that universities are not imparting the knowledge and skills required by Africa’s economies or the world.
At this time of year, it is always good to take a step back and reflect on the past 12 months. Where are we now, compared to a year ago? What does the future hold? There are three developments of significance for African science and research – a new continental plan for science, the first IBM laboratory in Africa and the downturn in global health research funding.
The International Labour Organisation’s Global Employment Trends 2013 estimated the global youth unemployment rate last year at 12.6%, representing 73.8 million young people without jobs. The highest rates are recorded in the Middle East and North Africa.
Will the innovation council created to advise African nations on science – and comprising prominent academics, industry representatives and policy-makers – have enough funding? It would be a great pity if the council ended up as a glorified prize-giving committee.
Finding reliable sources of funding has been a perennial problem for African researchers. A long-term lack of interest in university research means that few countries have substantial national research grants open to scientists.
A paralysed science system means that Uganda's desire to fund a landmark project out of its own coffers could backfire. A science ministry is needed to tackle fragmentation of research between government departments that is damaging the country’s entire science system.
Making access to science a human right is a worthy goal, but how can it be enshrined? And will it really deliver? Are developed nations ethically bound to improve the availability of scientific data and to increase the capacity of poorer nations to conduct their own research?
Without long-term planning and aggressive policy interventions, the tertiary education participation rate in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is unlikely to keep up with the demand from the region's 276-million strong population, let alone match the progress of regions such as East Asia and the Pacific or participation rates in the rest of the world.
As a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals, Ethiopia pledged to pursue a series of benchmarks and targets relating to gender equality. The targets aim to empower women and eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015. But despite vast expansion of higher education, female students remain chronically underrepresented.
A Ugandan report suggests that policy-makers' interest in science and technology is growing. But they need support to turn it into action. The lessons of the report are significant, and not only for Uganda.
Since the advent of the knowledge economy society, higher education has been seen as a major contributor to poverty reduction and sustainable human development. Over the past two decades, many regional organisations have invested in the revitalisation and further development of their higher education systems, in order to benefit from the opportunities offered by the knowledge economy.
The Protection of Information Bill, which was passed by South Africa's national assembly with a majority vote on 22 November, has raised the ire of researchers, who have slammed it as a threat to democracy and academic freedom.
After years of delays, both the Botswana International University of Science and Technology and the Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology are to open next year. The new institutions will give a major boost to the country's ability to produce high-level skills.
The phenomenon of European, American and Canadian universities, or some of their programmes, setting up campuses in Senegal is one that keeps on growing, for a number of reasons. Some argue that one driver of the trend is an attempt on the part of Western nations to curb immigration of young people eager to pursue studies abroad.