South Korea announces US$9 million scholarship grant

The South Korean government has announced a US$9 million grant for scholarships to support PhD students, research and innovation in various universities in Africa under the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) programme.

The announcement was made by Korean officials at the Sixth African Higher Education Week and Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Biennial Conference, held from 22-26 October in Nairobi.

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya, has been selected to manage the programme.

RSIF is a flagship programme of the Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), an initiative launched in 2013 by African governments to address fundamental gaps in skills and knowledge necessary for long-term, sustained economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is aimed at strengthening doctoral training, as well as research and innovation in applied sciences, engineering and technology in Africa. The World Bank and the Korean government are the latest partners to financially support the RSIF programme.

Already four universities have been selected for the scholarship programme scheduled to officially commence next year: the African University of Science and Technology of Nigeria, Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, Gaston Berger University in Senegal and the University of Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire.

The scholarship will focus on support for students and universities’ research and innovation projects relevant to the African transformation agenda, PhD programmes incorporating international and home-based research, and projects relevant in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

At a high-level policy dialogue on the sidelines of the RUFORUM conference, Professor Joonweon Choi, a Korean representative, said the selected students in the various universities will conduct their research work partly in Korean institutions, such as the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, and in their home universities.

“The collaboration with the Korean universities will also enable students to realise other opportunities that can advance their research that is important for the African development agenda,” said Choi.

The aim of the scholarship programme, he said, is to help Africa industrialise by building the relevant human capital in science and technology.

The role of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) will be to strengthen the capacity of universities and partnering institutions to manage PhD scholarships, and to conduct research and innovation in the priority sectors. It will also facilitate the creation of partnerships with governments, universities and national and international research organisations for research training.

“ICIPE’s extensive network of academic, research, donor and development partners, amounting to over 300 organisations and institutions in Africa and across the world, is a huge asset to the goals of RSIF,” said Professor Javier Botero Alvarez, lead education specialist at the World Bank, in a statement.

“RSIF is an innovative project and we expect to see its impact on higher education and scientific-technical capacity on the continent.”

Professor Fanuel Tagwira, Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary in the ministry of higher education, told University World News that Africa needs to strengthen its science, technology and innovation (STI) capacity.

“Research in our universities is still low as compared to the global output. Universities have to work together with the private sector to boost research in their institutions … The fewer numbers of qualified staff with PhDs are constraining the teaching and research that can support STI in the universities and this is where the focus by universities needs to shift.”