To enhance the impact of Africa-Europe science, technology and innovation, or STI, collaboration, it is essential to focus on building capacity for long-term win-win partnerships that are co-founded, co-managed, co-owned and leveraged on local knowledge. and co-financed with an understanding of the institutional and country contexts in relation to needs.
Higher-education stakeholders participating in the Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Forum, an Africa-Europe science cooperation and innovation forum held from March 7-10, highlighted ways Europe can leverage STI to support African universities in the development of sustainable economies. Can help overcome challenges to use. They also suggested solutions to the obstacles facing Africa-Europe STI cooperation.
Africa-Europe Science Cooperation and Innovation Forum (Airap) is a stakeholder forum organized to define priorities for science and innovation cooperation between Africa and Europe. The meetings were held in Brussels, Belgium with virtual participation.
Dr Petronella Chaminuka, Head of the Economic Analysis Unit of the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, said University World News African universities face a number of challenges in using STI to develop knowledge-based economies. These include insufficient funding to develop locally adapted STI products and limited access to information and knowledge by some user groups such as the poor, youth and small-scale farmers and businesses.
Chaminuka said, “In addition to limited private sector participation, which limits the uptake of knowledge within the economy, existing initiatives to develop STI products are fragmented due to project approaches that allow most donors to fund science.” use.” “This approach results in many ‘successful’ pilots that never make it to scale for impact.”
Mamfoku Khluwe, director of systems monitoring and labor market intelligence at the Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa, said African universities also find it difficult to recruit well-qualified and experienced STI staff, and have insufficient funding for curriculum development and improvement. Is. , Furthermore, the curricula are often out of date and there are not enough qualified maths and science lecturers.
Mampei Chaba, Chief Director of Multilateral and Africa Cooperation, Department of Science and Innovation, South Africa, said that Africa needs post-school education and training systems that are skills-focused, innovation-based and entrepreneurship driven to meet the challenges of universities. – Operated. face.
Lecturer in Public Administration, Entrepreneurship Development, Leadership and Global Dimensions of Business at the University of Professional Studies in Accra, Ghana Dr. Fred Awah told University World News: “There is a nexus between the continental education strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) and the drive to achieve access to STIs. While these links have been established in several studies, the African region remains a I feel bereft of company.
According to Avah, resistance to innovations due to erratic power supply, low internet connectivity, lack of computers and inadequate, untrained or insufficiently trained teachers in the use of STI equipment and lack of understanding are key challenges.
European aid for African universities
Some African universities are collaborating with European institutions to tackle STI challenges. For example, the doctoral program of the Africa Center of Excellence at Lagos State University [in Nigeria] Awah said the University of Burundi Doctoral School has brought expertise to Europe and other parts of the world through online visiting lectureships. “It can be emulated by others to promote educational development in the region.”
He pointed out that based on evidence, any educational collaboration between Europe and Africa should consider knowledge transfer using technology as a basis. “This can be done either individually (through fellowships), or through special teaching arrangements that enhance the knowledge sharing of both diasporas for the mutual benefit of both continents.”
Chaminuka also indicated that one way Europe can help African universities to enhance STI’s role in the development of knowledge-based economies is by investing in long-term interventions that draw on existing indigenous knowledge, contexts and lessons from previous projects. based on.
“This will enable successful interventions to have sustainability and impact. Chaminuka suggested that Europe could also help by investing in developing skills and capabilities for local innovation, rather than importing skills and technologies.
Khluwe said that, “in addition to taking initiatives to update university curricula, organizing a program for professors in universities, and organizing staff and student exchange programs, Europe will encourage African universities to engage Africans in European-based companies.” can facilitate workplace-based learning opportunities for students in Africa”. He also suggested a freely accessible, dedicated TV channel for maths and science for both school and university students.
Chaba said an effective way to support the role of African universities in developing a knowledge-based economy for Europe is through international mobility programs for academic staff, support professionals and students. “This can provide valuable opportunities to learn from other environments and can be a powerful catalyst for innovation and development of local solutions. However, it is important to recognize that solutions and approaches from the Global North can only be transferred to the Global South and may not be implemented, especially in developing contexts,” she pointed out. “Any collaboration must prioritize mutual learning and respect for local knowledge and needs.”
To ensure that Africa-Europe cooperation is informed by principles of equity, it is essential that Europe consider diversifying its investments and directing its financial resources into areas of collaborative research that align with the development imperatives of African countries. be aligned.
On a more practical level, Europe can help African universities increase the role of STIs in the development of knowledge-based economies by taking a number of measures. Chaba suggested that this include funding tools and programs that could help African universities develop and equip their technology transfer offices and encourage their contribution to innovation by directing funding to collaborative research Are.
“Measures also include creating tools that allow African students to work in large industries such as engineering and space science and with SMMEs (small, medium and micro-enterprises) in Europe, as well as increasing coordination and encouraging collaboration between large industry and Support financing instruments. , SMME, Academics and Govt.
Dr Fulfelo Nelwamando, Chief Executive Officer of the National Research Foundation in South Africa, said University World News: “Many universities in Africa are using STI to develop knowledge-based economies in their countries. With more than 50% of Africa’s research capacity located in its universities, it is a fundamental source of innovation. Prime examples are the universities that form part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).
Nelvamondo said that ARUA has a partnership with the Guild of European Research-Interactive Universities The Guild is a prime example of how equal university partnerships between African and European countries can spur advancement.
“Understanding institutional and country contexts are fundamental considerations for effective partnerships, which is always the first step in avoiding a general approach. Key challenges in which European universities can help include exposure opportunities for graduate students and emerging researchers and fostering collaboration between academia and industry,” Nelvamando pointed out. Science granting councils should also engage in an integrated systems approach to strengthen national knowledge economies for a co-created future.
Chaminuka said that the roadmap towards the jointly funded EU-Africa Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) is quite broad and covers most of the scientific fields. “It needs to be updated to include pandemics and aftershocks, and increased emphasis on capacity and skill development. Additional emphasis should be placed on scaling up innovation for public interest research and impact.”
Khluwe said that many scientific areas should be included in the Africa-Europe cooperation agenda. These are energy and water as well as innovative ways to solve housing problems in Africa, and approaches to transport, roads and climate change as well as dealing with refugees – particularly the management of floods, droughts and cyclones. He also suggested disaster management and solutions to improve access to data.
Elaborating further, Chaba said that entrepreneurship and commercialization, [together with] Fourth industrial revolution technological progress should also be added to the Africa-Europe scientific cooperation agenda.
Barriers to STI Cooperation
Chaba said: “Obstacles to increasing Africa-Europe cooperation in science and innovation include persistent power imbalances resulting from colonial legacies. European countries continue to dominate the research landscape, often relegating African countries to the role of passive recipients of knowledge. has been removed for
“To address this, a change in power dynamics is needed, including increased funding for African-led research and African knowledge being recognized as valuable and worthy of sharing.”
Chaba said the African Union (AU) needs to give more time to African member states to participate and contribute to joint Africa-Europe programmes. “We see countries similar to those in Africa participating in these programs, and this needs to change. The AU also needs to develop platforms that allow African countries to engage in AU-EU high-level policy dialogues (such as the AU-EU caucuses and joint positions on participating in major Africa-Europe governance structures such as the High-Level Policy Dialogue).HLPD) on STI.
Awah said that the diverse levels of development are a major obstacle relevant to Africa-Europe STI cooperation.
Avah indicated, “This usually comes with the challenges of contextual misunderstandings related to knowledge sharing and also misconceptions and applications of technology that may not work in the recipient continent.”
Chaminuka said that in most cases the relationship between the partners is unequal. African partners do not have substantial co-ownership of the agenda and are often recipients rather than co-founders of initiatives.
“we have a [url=https://www.leap4fnssa.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Revised-Projects-Study-FINAL_CS.pdf]Studies in 2020 showed that, for most projects in the FNSSA region, African partners do not act as project coordinators, and are often invited into the consortium instead of initiating and leading them,” she pointed out The solution is to build capacity for long-term partnerships that are co-managed, co-owned and co-financed.