African governments should invest in research carried out at universities which can inform national policies and spur socio-economic development.
Experts and educationalists meeting at the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa forum in Kigali said, for universities to carry out research that inform policies and lead to socio-economic development, governments should play a greater role.
The forum, organised under the theme, “Mobilising African Intellectuals Towards Quality Tertiary Education,” concluded yesterday.
The two-day summit noted that, despite the growing emphasis on research and development, total investment of African countries in research stands at about 0.5 per cent of GDP, which is below 1 per cent stipulated by the Maputo Agreement.
The Maputo Agreement calls on every country can devote 1 per cent of its GDP to research.
Several challenges facing African universities were highlighted, which need to be addressed to align them with international standards. These include inadequate funding and nonlinearity of research-policy linkage among others.
Because of the challenges, African varsities lag behind, with none making the top 100 universities globally, experts said.
Moreover, the African research and development innovation produces just 2 per cent of the world’s research output, experts said.
Prof Elias Ayuk, the director-general of the UN University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-IRA), said African governments should invest more resources in supporting tertiary institutions carry out impactful research if the continent is to develop.
“If countries start investing in research and show the political will, we will have research that has impact on development, it is not an issue of resources, it is about political will,” Ayuk said.
Prof Christian Happi, the dean of College of Post-Graduate Studies at Redeemer’s University, Nigeria, said African universities are not doing enough even as they get support from external donors.
Happi said if African scientists continue receiving research funding from external donors who set the terms, it will be hard for the continent to identify its problems and priorities.
Prof Kato Junywa, the University of Rwanda’s director of research, innovation and post-graduate studies, said they focus on research that helps alleviate poverty such as in health and agriculture.
He said there is need for government to scale up support for universities, adding that universities can also develop competitive research proposals which can secure grants for research projects.