New postgraduate academy to build research capacity

A postgraduate academy in Bamako in Mali, aimed at strengthening fundamental research in the humanities and social sciences in African countries, is due to start in July and initially run until July 2022.

Researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany and the University of Basel in Switzerland are working together on the 'Pilot African Postgraduate Academy' (PAPA), with €973,000 (US$1.1 million) funding from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung.

The programme targets early career researchers who have recently completed their doctoral degree in humanities or social sciences and who work at universities in Africa. It aims to deepen their understanding of the value of science for its own sake while fostering their interest in conceptual fundamental research.

“The project is focused on early career researchers from seven francophone African countries that despite notable progress continue to play only a minor role in global knowledge production,” the academy said in a statement.

“Africa is not only in need of applied research based on the needs of the development industry, but of excellent research that makes a contribution to the further development of global knowledge production as well, both in substance and in method,” said Professor Mamadou Diawara, an anthropologist from the institute for ethnology at Goethe University Frankfurt, who started the idea of the academy together with Professor Elisio Macamo from the Centre for African Studies, University of Basel.

The academy will be attached to the independent research centre 'Point Sud' in Bamako, Mali, founded by Diawara in 1997 and financed by Goethe University Frankfurt since 2003.

The academy briefing says an educational programme will be set up to encourage the scholars to engage in critical dialogue with their disciplines and their identity as scientists researching critical academic questions. Carefully selected young scientists will be intensively supervised to enable them to teach and publish at a new level after completing the three-year PAPA training.

Twice a year, there will be two-week workshops for 15 selected early career researchers and up to four established academics in Bamako. The mentoring programme is designed to connect high-ranking researchers and award-winners with their homeland institutions.

Mentors for the programme will be drawn from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mali, Niger and Senegal. The academy will further tap the expertise of the Bureaucratisation of African Societies project in Dakar, the newly founded Institute for Advanced Studies in Accra, the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa, the Institutes for Advanced Study in Stellenbosch and Nantes, and the new 'Africa Multiple' Cluster of Excellence at the University of Beyreuth.