Experts from various African countries have called for innovation and creativity to ensure quality research that will help make relevant policies to handle various challenges facing the continent.
They made the call at a three-day African Network for Internationalization of Education (ANIE) annual conference on Friday in Kigali.
Organised by ANIE in collaboration with University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB), the conference brought together universities from 23 African countries, researchers and other experts.
It discussed the impact of new regional and global dynamics, regional developments in research productivity, governance, leadership, new modes of learning and responsiveness to societal demands of Africa’s higher education.
It also analyses and critiques how African universities perceive such development and their preparedness to respond to them and benefit from the opportunities in the 21st century according to the organizers.
Dr. Marie-Christine Gasingirwa, Director General for Science, Technology and Research in the Ministry of Education, there was need to finance research projects so as to come up with results that can help make better policies.
“For a long time, developing countries have had a problem, when there has been lack of resources, we have always depended on development partners, but the emphasis was in basic education until we realized that higher education is paramount,” she said calling for more research.
“We need to support research because it will lead to evidence based policies, better use of resources and good governance and good development , thus sharpen the brains, challenges so that we are building the foundation for sustainability” she said
She added that due to the shortage of resources, laziness and lack of skills there was a vice of copying researches from other countries which affects the way African issues are addressed.
“We have to first assess our countries’ priorities and see if they match with the research we carry out,” she said.
She said that in 2014, it was agreed to make African centers of excellence a priority in Africa.
“Development needs TVET skills and innovation as long as high education is supported in such centres of excellence. Rwanda has four centres of excellence among the top 24 centres in Africa,” she said
Rwanda hosts centres for energy development, business, innovative teaching in mathematics and science.
“If we talk about home-grown solutions, we have to consider research and make use of these centres of excellence,” she said calling for more funding for better research that delivers better results.
The Vice Chancellor of UTB, Dr Callixte Kabera said the conference is an avenue for disseminating different research findings from about nine research papers.
He said the network would help exchange skills, mobility of students and doctoral lecturers among African universities instead of only depending on America, Europe and others.
“We need to build research capacity for quality research which is not copy and paste but the one that analyses African problems and addresses them.
At the conference there are various research papers such as learning about mobility of students and experts in academia, exchanging programs, exploiting centres of excellence. We are facing many challenges but challenges come with opportunity, he said.
According to Dr Charles Ong’ondo, the Executive Director of ANIE, Other challenges in African higher education include financial capacity that impedes transition of students from secondary schools to university courses.
“Only 10 per cent or less of African students transit from basic education to higher education due to problems of financing. We also need to build PhD capacity because five per cent of African lecturers have doctoral qualification and this affects the need to boost research for solving community’s problems,” he said.
Experts understand that there have been regional developments within Africa with implications for the future of higher education and its international dimensions including continental programs to support higher education based on African union’s agenda 2063, regional frameworks for research, quality assurance and more production of more PhDs.