Africa will remain behind other regions in terms of development as long as it lacks academics who are good enough to carry out research that responds to the continent’s realities.
Currently, experts said, much of the research on the continent focuses on topics dictated by funders, which may not necessarily have the interest of the African people at heart.
The academics, who were meeting in Kigali this week, urged universities and research institutions to strive to drive research on the continent.
On the other hand, governments were urged to implement their commitments to funding research other than leaving and not leave the role to foreign donors.
This was observed by different experts on Wednesday during the last day of the 5th Regional Forum for the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) in Kigali.
It brought together experts from different fields, including academia, and governments, and focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its opportunities and risks for Africa.
It also aimed at sharing experiences by the globe’s best models and approaches that can be adopted in higher education and TVET ecosystems.
However, experts said that the fourth Industrial Revolution and the digital economy would be hardly possible if the continent does not use them as opportunities to carry out research that responds to the issues faced with the continent.
According to a report by UNESCO, Africa’s share of global research currently represents a paltry 2.6 per cent, based on research carried out in 2014.
Experts say Africa’s contributes to global research is only about 3 per cent.
They attributed this dismal representation on the global scale to reluctance by African governments to fund research.
“Research in most African countries is quite low, hence the scientific output is equally very minimal,” said Moses Osiru, the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) Manager.
He added: “African leaders set a target committing at least 1 per cent of the GDP to research in science and technology but at present, this is not happening, very few countries are meeting this target.”
He said that the continent is also faced with the impact of research where even the little that is being done does not respond to the needs and priorities of the continent.
Osiru said that Africa’s research work is largely shortsighted, depending on the interests of the funder which could lead to other problems in the long-run.
“Africa needs think-tanks and universities where teachers can dedicate much of their time to research and less time teaching,” he said.
Under RSI, a PASET flagship plan to increase the number of PhD holders in Sub Saharan Africa, an MoU was signed with four institutions to increase the number of PhD holders in the region.
Partners include the Global Strategy Team, Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT).
Others include the Institute of Green BioScience and Technology, Seoul National University (SNU), and the University Mohammed VI Polytechnic from Morocco.
Over 100 PhD students are set to enroll in various African tertiary institutions in the next three years and the first cohort of 16, including three Rwandans, has already enrolled.
The continent has set up an ambitious target to have over 10,000 PhD holders in the next two decades.
According to James Gashumba, the Vice Chancellor of Rwanda Polytechnic, lack of enough research projects is a serious challenge that needs concerted efforts to be addressed.
“It is a serious challenge that Africa still lugs behind in research, and most researches that are carried out are dictated by foreign researchers who partner with Africans, and if they don’t understand the topic, they will not support it,” he said.
He said that time has come for Africa to stand up and does its own research, saying it would require political will to invest in the sector while working with industries to ensure that more practical skills are acquired.