Funding for HE in Africa is likely to continue – DAAD

For the foreseeable future higher education and research funding organisations in Germany are unlikely to cut funding for programmes they have been supporting in Africa, despite political upheavals and conflicts happening around the world.

The organisations and Germany as a country remain “very committed to continuing funding research and training in higher education initiatives in Africa and around the world, with little possibility of there being ‘drastic’ reduction in support for the programmes irrespective of political developments in the world”, said Kai Sicks, the secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

As a result, recipients of German funding, including academia and the research community in Africa, are unlikely to experience a reduction in funding due to funding being redirected, for instance, to Ukraine to support its war effort against Russia.

“Political upheavals for us mean finding new ways of doing things, that is why, for example, we are now supporting refugees so that they get a chance at education,” Sicks told University World News during the celebrations on 19 and 20 September in Nairobi to mark the 50 year anniversary of the DAAD in Africa.

As a member of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, the DAAD will therefore continue playing its role in Africa by offering scholarships and research grants to African universities, as well as research collaborations among other forms of assistance, as it has done for decades, Sicks said.

In Africa the DAAD was implementing a centres of excellence programme in different countries and in various fields, besides supporting universities to develop new curricula and was rooting for collaborative research with the institutions in the areas of sustainability, especially in agriculture and natural resources management

“As [the] DAAD we remain committed to the improvement of quality of education and research in Africa. We are keen to work with your institutions to enhance the quality of degrees and to mould the future leaders and experts in various fields in Africa,” Sicks told a session at the anniversary celebrations last week.

“Africa will remain an important target of German funding as the two mark an important shift away from traditional development cooperation and move on towards real partnership-based cooperation,” he added.

Science diplomacy

In addition, the DAAD will step up efforts aimed at enhancing science diplomacy in the belief that diplomacy is key to finding solutions to problems facing Africa and that science diplomacy is key to a peaceful world.

Across Africa experts in different fields who had benefited from training with support of the DAAD remained “great ambassadors” of Germany-Africa relations. It was “no coincidence that there is a meeting of diplomatic ties and education relations”, Sicks explained.

“Science diplomacy means creating freedom for academics to move freely and exchange ideas with peers around the world, and seek solutions to challenges facing humanity,” he said.

While science diplomacy was at times hampered by geopolitics, as has happened in the wake of Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the resultant reaction by the European Union and Germany in support of Ukraine, it still offered great opportunities for peace, as witnessed in the five decades of Germany-East Africa relations, he observed.

Despite such setbacks, opportunities for science diplomacy still offered numerous “opportunities for intensification of relations” between Germany and African countries, especially academic and political relations.

There existed a “big overlap between the world of science diplomacy and political diplomacy” said the German ambassador to Kenya Sebastian Groth, noting that as the world changed diplomacy was also evolving.

The overlap was working well for Germany-Africa relations as witnessed by decades of German support for education and science on the continent, whose focus was now more on addressing the emerging challenges of security and climate change on the continent, he noted.

Germany, he said, was directing its efforts to the delivery of quality education, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and gender inequality in Africa.

“Reducing inequality is part of Germany’s policy on education and through this African scientists, researchers and the academia have greatly benefited from our support,” the envoy said.

The DAAD, the envoy observed, has “done a good job” of taking people in the region “in and up” over the past 50 years, and the relations should be kept “active” into the future.

Research and academic cooperation between Germany and the Eastern Africa region, in particular, has impacted the lives of many and has had a major impact on growth of the two fields, said Professor Hirut Woldemariam, former minister of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Ethiopia.

The cooperation has made the government of Germany a “huge” development partner for the region despite the rise and presence of emerging powers in the region.

Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, has made itself indispensable in the region, despite changes in global power balance and the new world order, with its relations with Ethiopia dating back to 118 years ago. It has proven itself a great ally in the field of Science Technology and Innovation for Africa.

“We would like Germany to support us to convert our huge young population into a pool of skilled human capital,” the ex-minister requested.

Creating positive impact

According to Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, a Tanzanian diplomat and the former United Nations deputy secretary-general, and a DAAD alumna, the organisation has surmounted geopolitical challenges including the Cold War and the end of the East-West divide marked by the collapse of the Berlin Wall to remain true to its calling by supporting education and research in Africa.

Due to its sustained focus, the DAAD has helped turn higher education in Africa into an “agent of change”, where thousands of alumni have gone back to the communities they came from and created a positive impact.

“Germany has remained a steadfast partner in the world of academia [and] with continued support Africa will be able to face the new challenges climate change and global warming using education and research,” said Migiro.

Professor Stephen Gitahi Kiama, vice-chancellor at the University of Nairobi which hosted the event, agreed that international scientific collaborations such as those supported by the DAAD have had a transformative effect in higher education by promoting academic mobility and cross-border cultural understanding.

The collaborations helped students and academic staff in universities acquire diverse international perspectives that are useful in solving evolving challenges facing the world and that also called for diverse solutions.

“Germany’s contribution in education and research has proven that collaborations can indeed be transformative and that collaborations can provide endless opportunities,” he told the event.