AFRICA-IRELAND: First five-nation project boosts research

Irish President Mary McAleese has launched an unprecedented initiative that brings together all nine universities in the Republic and Northern Ireland with universities in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The four involved in the Irish-African Partnership for Research Capacity Building are Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.

The IAPRCB project will work to develop a coordinated approach to research in health, education, gender, and information and communications technologies between Ireland (North and South) and the four countries. The main aim is to help both Irish and African universities make an effective contribution to poverty reduction through relevant research in the four areas.

The project is largely funded by the government's development cooperation agency, Irish Aid, with some matching funding from Universities Ireland, the all-island university network. The initiative has been warmly welcomed by Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities, who attended its launch in Dublin City University.

The presidents and vice-chancellors of five universities in the participating countries also took part in workshops to discuss how the initiative will work in practice: Professor Livingston Luboobi of Makerere University, Uganda; Professor Zimani Kadzamira of the University of Malawi; Professor Rwekaza Mukandala of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Professor Orlando Quilambo of Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique; and Bishop Mathias Ssekamanya of Uganda Martyrs University.

The IAPRCB is the first example of universities in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland coming together to collaborate in an 'off the island' initiative to assist education in developing countries. The initiative will help Ireland's aim of becoming the sixth country in the world to reach the UN target of 0.7% of gross national product spent on development cooperation by 2012.

Organisers describe it as a first North-South initiative both in terms of Ireland and the wider world. All nine Irish universities are participants: the project's management is run from Dublin City University, its website manager is in Trinity College Dublin, its health and education postdoctoral researchers are in Queen's University Belfast and Mary Immaculate College-University of Limerick respectively, and its administrative leader is the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh.