NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 25, 2014.
Pooling resources and working together, instead of competing, are some of the ways research conducted at African universities can help propel the continent to be a global leader, projecting to 2063.
During a public lecture on research in African universities in the Senate Hall at the University of Pretoria yesterday, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, emphasised how research done at universities can help with the overall development of Africa.
“The only way to do so is by getting universities to look 50 years into the past and 50 years in to the future,” said Dlamini-Zuma. Projecting ahead “liberates you – it is not defined and confined by immediate circumstances”.
Research carried out at universities is one of the ways universities could help to “turn all our resources into wealth for our people,” said Dlamini-Zuma. A fundamental way of doing this was to broaden the base from which students are chosen, she said.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Cheryl de la Ray, responded by saying demand was too high to accommodate more students. “We don’t take international students for our undergraduate courses because of huge demand locally,” she said.
“We make plans and expect other people to fund them.”
Dlamini-Zuma said development needed to happen internally, with Africans helping Africans. The AU has found that most African researchers collaborate with researchers from overseas and not one another, something which “surprised and disappointed” her.
She added that African universities and researchers needed to work together towards Pan-African development, mentioning the African Union was in the process of starting a virtual Pan-African university.
Dlamini-Zuma stressed that through research conducted at African universities “vexing questions could be answered”. She cited a cure for malaria and the gradual disappearance of Lake Chad as examples of questions that needed to be investigated.