African academic diaspora collaboration drive scales up

Expanding the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to implement a ‘10/10’ initiative that supports 10,000 diaspora academics across the world over 10 years to partner with African universities is underway, says the project’s founder Dr Paul Zeleza. This month 35 universities in six African countries were selected to host 46 African-born academics working in North America, bringing to 282 the number of diaspora fellows awarded over four years.

The ‘10/10’ initiative was agreed at the First African Higher Education Summit held in Senegal’s capital Dakar in March 2015.

A major conference at Harvard University in March brought together current and potential key players in African higher education and diaspora affairs to scale up the Carnegie initiative, said its leader Zeleza, a former diaspora academic who is now vice-chancellor of the 6,000-student not-for-profit United States International University-Africa or USIU-Africa in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The conference created the Consortium of African Diaspora Fellowship Programs that will implement ‘10/10’.

“The secretariat has also held several meetings with various regional and international organisations involved in African higher education as part of the process of scaling it up,” Zeleza told University World News.

“The future of the diaspora programme is very bright because it meets a concrete need. As African higher education undergoes massive transformations, there is no doubt in my mind that the continent's academic diaspora has a major positive role to play.”

The programme

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program or CADFP aims to build partnerships between universities and scholars in Africa and North America, and to help to tackle Africa’s priority needs.

It “is designed to reverse Africa’s brain drain, build capacity at the host institutions and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and the United States and Canada”, said the New York-based Institute of International Education or IIE in a statement on 11 May.

The IIE manages the diaspora programme in collaboration with USIU-Africa, which coordinates the activities of its advisory council.

Zeleza believes a unique structure in international educational exchanges has been developed with the four organs – Carnegie providing funding, the IIE responsible for overall management, the advisory council comprising prominent African and North American academics and administrators setting policy and strategic direction, and USIU-Africa hosting the secretariat.

The initiative’s objectives and structure have remained the same over the four years. It seeks to facilitate equitable and effective engagements “through multifaceted and innovative projects focused on curriculum development, collaborative research, and graduate student training”.

The 35 host universities selected this month are in the six countries involved in the programme – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

In the first cycle of the scheme, for two years from October 2013, the secretariat was hosted at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, US, where Zeleza used to be vice-president for academic affairs. “The partnership of an Africa-based university has strengthened the programme, giving it added credibility and reach among the academic diaspora, African universities and other stakeholders.”

In the current funding cycle, for two years from October 2015, some changes were introduced “including requests for multi-institution, thematic and cohort projects and applications from programme alumni”. In the current cycle, the initiative is supporting 140 fellowships in all.

Fellowships and universities

Public and private universities in the African countries were invited to submit project requests to host a diaspora scholar for 14 to 90 days. The fellowships cover project expenses including transport, a daily stipend and the costs of visas and health insurance.

The universities may name a proposed scholar, or the IIE maintains a scholar roster to facilitate matches, according to discipline specialisations, expertise, activities and project objectives. The scholars must have been born in Africa, have a terminal degree and work at an accredited college or university in America or Canada.

Project requests and proposed scholars are evaluated by a review committee and approved by the advisory council.

The visiting fellows will work with the 35 host universities on research, curriculum development, and staff and postgraduate teaching and mentoring projects across a range of some three dozen fields and disciplines.

The IIE gave several project examples, such as research in HIV-Aids prevention and developing curricula by Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania and Wright State University; and an environmental sciences scholar from Florida State University will work with Pwani University in Kenya to develop bachelor and masters degrees in oceanography.

There will be a multi-country project in which CADFP alumni will work with Makerere University in Uganda and Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania to conduct research in women’s leadership and management and mentor graduate students in grant writing and collaborative research.

The diaspora scholars come from 39 universities (see below). Among the 35 African universities hosting fellows in the latest round are seven in Ghana, six in Kenya, 14 in Nigeria, two in South Africa, five in Tanzania and one in Uganda – Makerere University.

The institutions in Ghana are Ashesi, Knutsford and Pentecost university colleges, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the universities of Cape Coast and of Ghana, and Valley View University. In Kenya they are Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, USIU-Africa, and the universities of Kabianga, Kenyatta, Nairobi and Pwani.

The 14 in Nigeria are the universities of: Abuja; Bowen in Iwo; Covenant; Ebonyi State; Federal University Oye-Ekiti; Ilorin; Imo State; Jos; Kwara State; Lagos; Nigeria at Nsukka; Nnamdi Azikiwe; Obafemi Awolowo; and Pan-Atlantic University.

There are also the universities of Johannesburg and South Africa, and in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Saint Augustine University, Sokoine University of Agriculture, and Muslim University of Morogoro.

Achievements and the future

“The programme has exceeded all our expectations, as evident from numerous evaluations and reports from the fellows and their host institutions,” Zeleza told University World News.

First, it has proved popular both with the academic diaspora and African universities. “Since its inception the programme has received a total of 640 project requests from 164 accredited African universities.”

Also, around 1,000 diaspora academics have submitted applications to the roster, or are in process. Altogether, some 274 fellowships to 102 US and Canadian universities have been matched and funded.

“We have also been impressed by the willingness of African host institutions to provide a significant percentage of cost sharing for hosting fellows, which is a programme requirement.”

Second, Zeleza continued, “the fellowships are fostering sustainable engagements between the academic diaspora and their institutions and African universities”.

According to surveys: 96% of fellows have continued collaborating after the initial fellowship period; 41% of fellows have visited their host institution again for professional reasons since their initial project visit; 86% of the institutions have established a formal agreement, linkage or collaboration; and 90% of host collaborators and 97% of fellows indicated that their perspective on collaboration with scholars had grown or changed in a positive way.

Zeleza said that CADFP would continue, with a renewal for a new two-year cycle currently being prepared.

The Harvard conference on “The Role of the Diaspora in the Revitalisation of African Higher Education” was attended by more than 90 participants, including education ministers, vice-chancellors, foundation leaders, corporate executives, development experts and scholars.

The keynote address was delivered by Tanzania’s former president Jakaya Kikwete, who has agreed to be the programme’s champion. Hopes were high that the activities of the advisory council and its secretariat at USIU-Africa to expand the initiative’s scope would bear fruit.

“The 10/10 program seeks to bring at least 1,000 diaspora academics each year for 10 years from the African diaspora as a whole – not just the African-born – from anywhere in the world, to any country in Africa.”

If achieved – and this is a considerable ask – it would be a major step forward for international collaboration with Africa – and for African higher education.

Universities of African diaspora scholars

California State University, Fullerton
Calvin College
Central Connecticut State University
College of Charleston
Columbus State University
Florida International University 
Florida State University
Howard University
Johns Hopkins University
Lipscomb University 
Meharry Medical College 
Memorial University of Newfoundland 
Mississippi State University
Mississippi Valley State University
Missouri State University 
Northeastern University
Ohio Valley University 
Quinnipiac University 
Saint Cloud State University
Sam Houston State University
Southern Polytechnic State University
Texas Christian University
Texas Southern University
University of Alabama
University of Alberta
University of British Columbia
University of Florida
University of Guelph
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri, Columbia
University of New Mexico
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
University of South Carolina Upstate
University of South Florida
University of Texas, School of Public Health
University of Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Wright State University