Fellows initiative taps diaspora to support African HE

A new scholar exchange initiative offering 100 fellowships to African-born academics living in North America, to work in and forge research partnerships with African universities, has been launched by Carnegie Corporation of New York. The ambitious aim is “to turn the continent’s ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain gain’”.

The Carnegie Corporation said in a release that African-born scholars living in the United States and Canada would be eligible for the fellowships and would “conduct collaborative research in curricula development, co-publish and supervise graduate students”.

“Fellows will engage in educational projects proposed and hosted by faculty at higher education institutions in countries where Carnegie Corporation operates in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The two-year Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Program will be managed and administered by the New York-based Institute of International Education.

Strategic direction and project approval will be provided by an advisory panel of African academic leaders and prominent African diaspora academics, chaired by Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, a professor of history and vice president for academic affairs at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, United States.

The goal is to facilitate “equitable, effective and mutually beneficial international higher education engagements between scholars in Africa and African diaspora,” the corporation said, adding that the initiative exemplified its “enduring commitment to higher education in Africa”.

Forms and guidelines for African-born academics and for African universities to host the diaspora fellows will kick off in January next year, although would-be fellows and institutions can express interest and request information now.

The fellowships will be for two weeks to one semester, and will cover all travel costs as well as a daily stipend, with host institutions encouraged to fund housing, meals and local transport.

The corporation said multifaceted and innovative projects would be encouraged, “attuned to the transformations taking place in contemporary systems of higher education within the landscape of internationalisation”.

The initiative is the brainchild of Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, himself a member of the African academic diaspora.

Carnegie funded research that the Malawian academic conducted, resulting in the report Engagements Between African Diaspora Academics in the US and Canada and African Institutions of Higher Education: Perspectives from North America and Africa.

Zeleza obtained a bachelor degree at the University of Malawi and a masters in African history and international relations at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies and the London School of Economics and Political Science, followed by a PhD in economic history at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

He worked at the University of the West Indies before returning to Africa to teach at Kenyatta University in Kenya, where he began research that led to an award-winning book, A Modern Economic History of Africa.

Among other things Zeleza has held teaching and management positions at the universities of Dalhousie and Trent in Canada, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States.