Diaspora e-platform to build bridges between researchers

Mauritania has launched an academic diaspora platform to enable academics who work abroad to support the implementation of national strategies for higher education and scientific research.

This was announced at the first virtual forum for Mauritanian researchers in the diaspora held on 28 October under the supervision of the ministry of higher education and scientific research themed ‘Researchers abroad: Is there a contribution to developing research in Mauritania?’

The e-platform MARAM is part of the government’s implementation plan for the five-year strategy for research and innovation and the 10-year strategy for higher education that focus on making research and innovation a lever for socio-economic transformation as well as improving institutional governance and the efficiency of higher learning institutions to produce market-ready graduates.

“For people across MENA (Middle East and North Africa), migration remains an option, especially for the younger, better educated generations, mainly to escape economic hardships,” stated a 2022 report, Public Views of Migration in MENA, which indicated that 18% of surveyed Mauritanians are considering emigrating.

Database of the academic diaspora

Speaking at the forum, Mohamed Yahya, the minister delegate to the minister of foreign affairs, cooperation and Mauritanians abroad, who is responsible for Mauritanians who are working elsewhere in the world, said the MARAM platform will help with a comprehensive census of Mauritanians abroad as there is an absence of accurate information and statistics about the Mauritanian academic diaspora.

The e-platform’s database of academic Mauritanian nationals abroad will facilitate the mobilisation of their skills, knowledge and expertise to foster partnerships and knowledge sharing between the academic diaspora and national higher education institutions and associated research centres.

It will also aim to strengthen relationships and enhance cooperation between local universities and the foreign higher education institutions where Mauritanian academics are based.

“This will help in building bridges between researchers abroad and the homeland,” Yahya added.

Expanding further, Niang Mamadou, Mauritania’s minister of higher education and scientific research, said this forum is part of the policy of engaging the human resources in the diaspora with national construction processes such as the implementation of the national strategy for scientific research and innovation.

From brain drain to brain circulation

Mohamed Hamady Sidihelballa, the assistant secretary general for external relations of the National Union of Mauritanian Students, or UNEM, told University World News via WhatsApp that Maram is an ideal initiative to connect Mauritanian academics abroad and local higher education institutions that experience a shortage of staff and a lack of academically experienced scientific competencies.

“This platform will facilitate the use of the expertise and experiences of the huge force of diaspora by turning the ‘brain drain’ into a ‘brain gain’ and ‘brain circulation’ through actively engaging them with national higher education initiatives which will have positive impact on the revitalisation of African higher education institutions,” Hel explained.

MARAM will also be a valuable source for Mauritanian postgraduate students seeking supervisors from the Mauritanian academic diaspora, said Hel.

The total number of mobile Mauritanian students abroad is 4,704, according to the UNESCO report, Global Flow of Tertiary-Level Students.

Promoting diaspora engagement

Al-Tohamy Sayed Mohamed, the secretary general of the General Union of Mauritanian Students, or UGEM told University World News via WhatsApp that the Mauritanian Ministry of Higher Education should also actively encourage the diaspora’s participation in higher education policy debates ...” he said.

“Besides promoting policies that facilitate travel for diaspora academics, the Mauritanian Ministry of Higher Education should promote relationships between diplomatic missions and higher education systems in host countries to support diaspora engagement.

“Mauritania’s higher education institutions should formalise mutually beneficial relationships with universities where diaspora academics are based and provide support for Mauritanian professors abroad through strategic partnerships, fellowships, travel stipends and collaborative grant development,” said Mohamed.

According to him, the Mauritanian Ministry of Higher Education should implement monitoring and evaluation processes to assess the short- and long-term impact of partnerships with the Mauritanian academic diaspora.

This news report was updated on 6 November.