PhD Crisis in Africa’s Universities

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If you walk down a busy streets in many Africa’s larger cities, you’ll pass pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, brothels and universities’ branch campuses.

Most of these cheap, low-quality satellite campuses don’t have even the most basic facilities. Most of their libraries have no libraries, slow internet access. There’s usually a full-time campus director and a handful of academic staff who usually hold no more than a master’s degree.

Sometimes even their degrees are questionable credibility. But these campuses raise money for the parent university and meet the country’s high demand for tertiary education.

The Next Einstein Forum and the government of Rwanda yesterday hosted the second NEF ministerial meeting to leverage research networks and funding mechanisms to drive Africa’s long term progress.

Under the theme, “Collaborative Global Research Networks: Implementing Essential Actions”, the meeting reviewed three important themes arising from the first ministerial meeting held in Dakar, Senegal in March 2016.

“This meeting sought to develop concrete proposals around three initiatives: Increasing the number of PhDs, creating and structuring the Africa Research Chair Initiative (ARCI) and developing mechanisms to harness research mobility within Africa.

The NEF will review recommendations arising from this meeting and propose a concrete road map. “We believe innovation led transformation in Africa cannot be sustainable outside of research, and we’re working with African governments, learning institutions and the private sector to accelerate research collaboration and funding in critical scientific and technological fields,” said Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, NEF Chair and President and CEO of AIMS.

Dr. Papias Musafiri, Rwanda’s Minister of Education said: “Rwanda is happy to have hosted this important meeting that seeks to concretize Rwanda’s and Africa’s ambitions to leverage research and development to improve people’s lives.

Some of the initiatives proposed will increase research collaboration and improve funding mechanisms making it possible to improve the pipeline of researchers and globally competitive innovations coming from Africa. We look forward to seeing concrete outcomes implemented.”

The participants agreed on increasing the annual rate of PhD holders: Each African country must roll out a comprehensive evaluation and analysis of the number of PhDs in every field – identifying strengths and weaknesses of national PhD systems including design and mobility. Participants also called for the establishment of a pan-African pool of researchers. Finally, delegates insisted that while increasing the number of STEM doctorates is critical for innovation, social sciences and humanities must not be overlooked.

Also on the establishment of an African Research Chair Initiative: The process establishing research chair initiatives must be managed country by country, cognizant of each country’s capabilities and progress. In addition, research chair initiatives must build a pipeline of young researchers benefiting from such initiatives.

On increasing continental research mobility: There is a need to form a consortium that includes various African and global institutions, especially the private sector that would design and fund mechanisms to increase mobility among African researchers living in Africa and the diaspora.

This consortium would also work to highlight opportunities in each country, as well as foster international research collaborations. Delegates also asked the NEF to further investigate the creation of industry led research initiatives that foster mobility and collaboration.

The NEF Ministerial Meeting is held every six months to review progress from recommendations arising at each meeting and propose concrete initiatives developed from global best practices and local contextual experiences and challenges.

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