A Group Picture of Officials at the Conference
The African Research Universities Alliances (ARUA) has held its International Launch Conference on the theme “Research in Africa Rising”. The two-day conference which took place at the University of Ghana’s ISSER Conference Hall was formally opened by His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, who was represented by Prof. Kwesi Yankah, Minister of State for Tertiary Education.
Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary-General of the African Research Universities Alliance, in his introductory remarks gave a general introduction of the Conference, highlighting the various plenary and parallel sessions and key presentations to be made. He acknowledged the work put in by the ARUA Board in ensuring the maiden international conference, and said he was hopeful the outcome would push the agenda of ARUA forward.
Prof. Ernest Aryeetey
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, formally welcomed participants to the Conference and said he was delighted that many of his colleague Vice Chancellors from Africa and indeed distinguished researchers from the continent were participating in the International launch Conference of ARUA, which he said was a signal of a positive interest in the ideals of ARUA which seeks to enhance research in Africa.
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu
There were statements from the ARUA Board, delivered by Professor Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor, of the University of the Witwatersrand, and a video- recorded statement from Dr. Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Bernie Fanaroff, former Director of the Square Kilometre Array South Africa Project. He mentioned that even though Africa had many challenges, it was important to view them as opportunities. He said Africa has unique research opportunities and called on ARUA to consider adding data science to its priority projects.
Dr. Bernie Fanaroff said there was the need to attract young people into scientific and technical careers which he noted were self-evident, adding that it was important also to retain these young people in Africa, or bring them back after they have done some research overseas. Dr. Fanaroff demonstrated his argument by showing how the Square Kilometre Array Telescope Project, which seeks to build the world’s largest telescope in Africa, has attracted African youth to the sciences and changed their perceptions about the availability of support for cutting-edge science research and development on the continent. He mentioned several other science, engineering and technology related projects currently in development in Africa, and called for government-level commitment to attract top talent to African universities to fulfill the potential of the universities.
Dr. Bernie Fanaroff
The President, in his address delivered by Honourable Minister of State for Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, while commending ARUA for the exemplary initiative of pooling together the research capacities, strengths and visions of leading African universities in the name of Africa's development and beyond, acknowledged that no nation can boast of sustained development without investing in its human capital. The African continent, the President said, only accounts for 1% of the world’s research output, most of which is conducted in South Africa and argued that Africa’s relatively negligible research output can be partly traced to a certain level of inertia towards research by governments and other stakeholders.
While wishing participants fruitful deliberations, the President commended ARUA for showing true leadership by coming together as African universities in order to harness their respective research energies for the ultimate good of the continent. He was hopeful that in other aspects of human endeavour, African institutions and governments will continue to find common ground to bring growth, development and stability to African. “We all have a role to play in pursuing these noble goals,” he added.
There were four Plenary sessions with corresponding parallel sessions on Mobility and Migration, Poverty and Inequality, Unemployment and Skills Development, Climate Change, Food Security, Non-Communicable Diseases,, Mobilizing Private Sector Support for Higher Education Transformation in Africa, Notions of Identity, Good Governance, Post-Conflict Societies, Urbanization and Habitable Cities, Materials Development and Nanotechnology, Energy, and Water Conservation. A Round Table Closing Session on Marking Research in Africa Rise Faster was held to bring the Conference to an end.
Professor Kwesi Yankah
Sixteen research-strong partner universities are represented in the Alliance, established in 2015, as a strategic alliance of research intensive universities, who bring together their distinctive fields of expertise, to achieve complementary and coordinated programmes of research and training, including addressing the key development priorities of the African continent. They are from Nigeria: University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University; Ghana: University of Ghana; Tanzania: University of Dar es Salaam; South Africa: University of the Witwatersrand, University of Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria, Rhodes University and the University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Kenya: University of Nairobi; Rwanda: University of Rwanda; Senegal: Université Cheikh Anta Diop; Uganda: Makerere University; and Ethiopia: University of Addis Ababa.