Research universities alliance launches two new centres

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) has launched two new centres of excellence, based at the University of Lagos (Unilag) in Nigeria – the first to be launched outside of South Africa.

The launch of the two centres – the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Unemployment and Skills Development in Africa and the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Urbanisation and Habitable Cities in Africa – took place on 6 September and coincided with the bi-annual meeting of ARUA deputy vice-chancellors (research) which was hosted by the University of Lagos.

The launch ceremony was presided over by the Unilag Vice-Chancellor Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe who recounted the strong association between ARUA and his university, which is a founding member of ARUA.

Ogundipe said Unilag offered to host the two centres of excellence because it has a strong record of accomplishment in those areas and it wanted to share its resources with other African universities. He observed that his predecessor, Professor Rahamon Bello, also supported ARUA and this explained why the university was among the first institutions to pursue the ARUA agenda with various initiatives.

ARUA Secretary-General Professor Ernest Aryeetey expressed his appreciation to the University of Lagos for hosting the two centres. He said the hosting of such a centre entailed significant annual expenditure by the host university, amounting to 20% of the operational costs of each. The ARUA secretariat is expected to provide the remaining 80% of the operational budget. The centre management is required to seek grants to support the expanded research programme of the centres.

Aryeetey said the centres are intended to be open to all ARUA member universities, and it was important to make them easily accessible to as many people from outside Nigeria as possible. The centres should attract the best researchers in the region and invite the best graduate students to work with them, he said.

Director of the Centre of Excellence for Urbanisation and Habitable Cities, Professor Timothy Nubi, said the centre would work in a number of areas including sustainable cities and African urbanisation dynamics, which will deal with issues relating to resilient cities, city development policy, environmental change in cities, among others.

It will also look into housing and regeneration, as well as urban health and livability. Other areas of interest are sustainable urban design and infrastructure as well as land management and administration. Enhanced governance arrangements in Africa’s cities will also receive attention from the centre.

Professor Sunday Adebisi, director of the Centre of Excellence for Unemployment and Skills Development, said the centre would focus on evaluating the challenges of unemployment for the youth in Africa.

It would conduct research into the best ways of understanding unemployment and joblessness, and providing skills to African youth. The centre would also investigate risk-taking capabilities and look into the creativity and business management skills that will help Africans to become employers.

Dr Jacqui Williams of the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) international development team, said a new initiative had been launched that will allow UKRI and ARUA to work together to support the work of the ARUA centres of excellence. The two organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding to pave the way for ARUA to receive financial support from the UK government, she said.

According to a local news report, Williams said the agency was happy to partner with ARUA to boost capacity of African researchers.

“We want to support research to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; we want to help build research capacity in developing countries. We want researchers around the world to work together so we have the best working with the best,” she said.