Mentorship project to help early career women researchers

The Alliance for African Partnership (AAP), a collaborative research initiative made up of eight African universities and headed by Michigan State University of the United States, will from September commence a mentorship project meant to benefit early career female researchers in the eight universities.

The partnership will deliver the project through its African Futures Research Leadership Program (AFRLP), a vehicle designed to nurture young female research leaders. It will begin by recruiting and mentoring a pioneer cohort of eight young academics spread across AAP consortium institutions.

The institutions are Egerton University in Kenya, Makerere University in Uganda, University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi, University of Botswana, University of Nigeria in Nsukka in Nigeria, Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal, and the University of Arts and Humanities of Bamako in Mali.

Beneficiaries will be female scholars employed as academic staff members with a PhD degree under three years old, and will be picked in September following the recent call for applications that closes on 6 June.

They are expected to be drivers of research in their institutions, not only in their own field of study, but also across the broader research agenda, becoming part of the next generation of researchers, according to José Jackson-Malete, co-director of the AAP.

Visiting scholars will spend one year at Michigan State University (MSU) working with a mentor from the American university and a mentor from their home institution, engaging in research, curriculum development, as well as in a “structured academic development programme” covering subjects including grant writing and manuscript writing.

Fellows will be taken through professional development activities that will help them establish their professional trajectories, and leadership activities exposing them to first-hand academic administration including operations, expectations, opportunities and challenges that come with administrative positions.

They will gain from collaboration networks and have access to AAP’s broad network of researchers around the world.

In the final two weeks of the programme, they will travel to the University of Pretoria in South Africa to participate in the Future Africa Research Leader Programme to strengthen their capacity in leadership, Jackson-Malete said. They will receive training in thought leadership, team and research development, engagement and collaboration, while also building South-South collaboration among themselves.

According to Jackson-Malete, the AAP is focused on African challenges that have been identified at a continental level by the African Union. These include agri-food systems; culture; health and nutrition; water, energy and environment; youth empowerment; and education.

The AAP was founded in 2016 by MSU in consultation with African leaders as a collaborative and cross-disciplinary platform to address global challenges in a sustainable way. It defines its mission as being to promote “sustainable, effective and equitable long-term partnerships” among African institutions, MSU and other international collaborators.