The 16-member African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) has received a grant of £20 million from the United Kingdom to investigate issues such as climate change and resilience, pollution and environmental degradation and disease and improved health.
The ARUA is a network of universities committed to expanding and enhancing significantly the quality of research done in Africa by African researchers. These universities pool their own limited resources, with a view to generating a critical mass that could more effectively support their limited, but growing numbers of researchers.
The grant is expected to fund research projects led by African academics to help governments on the continent achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
After a two-day workshop, hosting more than 120 researchers and research managers from 15 ARUA universities and eight N8 universities at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary-General of ARUA explained in an interview that ARUA had since its inception created centres of research excellence that closely aligned with the UNSDGs.
He said concerning the allocation of the grant that, “The 13 themes being discussed have been chosen carefully by the African Vice Chancellors to reflect their interest in the SDGs, so the idea is to find the things that trouble Africans and how can we do good research to help deal with these things,” Prof. Aryeetey said.
The workshop, held at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research of the University of Ghana was structured to give the participants the opportunity to develop their common interests in specific aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals into possible research projects.
Prof. Aryeetey said that the workshop also presented the participants the platform to share expertise and build on complementary research strengths.
When asked about how the academia in Africa could shift from being aid-dependent and find alternative sources of funding, Prof. Aryeetey answered, “That is what we have been working to build all these years and it’s about how you build institutions and structures that are able to work on their own without government intervening.”
“With this collaboration, African researchers will be able to lead the research programme, an African team can invite the UK to work on a project that the African team is leading and it’s the leadership that is important, and that is how we have been able to change things. We are determining the themes that we want to work on,” he added.
Prof. Aryeetey charged African governments to emulate the gesture and support research projects towards the attainment of the SDGs.
“We believe strongly that there is no way any African government is going to make a headway with tackling the Sustainable Development Goals without new knowledge, and new knowledge only comes from research; and so if African governments want to achieve the SDGs, they have no choice than to invest in research because what the UK government is doing is that they are saying ‘we agree with you so we are committing £20 million’,” Prof. Aryeetey said.