Research production and utilization in Africa is currently experiencing an upwardtrend following years of measured evolution. Production is calculated in terms of number of publication in peer previewed journals and utilization in terms of number of citations. Recent studies from UNESCO, World Bank and select peer review journals, have compared data for 10 years have revealed this optimistic progression. Nonetheless, literature and studies have identified some key glaring gaps:
Africa research publication production is at approximately 1% of the total global research production which is at 12%. As such, research volume is still low compared to the elevated diverse needs and underutilized potential in most parts of the continent.
Research priorities, concepts and results in Africa are still interpreted from Western standards of what is considered best practices and interventions. As a result, there are been progressive epistemic inequality and injustice where local knowledge is often undermined, marginalized and dismissed at the global research space.
There is minimal investment by national governments in research development in terms of evolving relevant infrastructure (communication, internet, laboratories or innovative hubs), limited strategies exist to retain experienced researchers within the continent so that they can groom more robust researchers.Higher education programs continue to have minimal emphasis on quality research based learning and outputs.
Science, Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM)research has continued to take a back sit amongst other research priorities.Health research and agriculture has taken a lead in Africa owing to the health burden in the most of African countries. STEM research in Sub Saharan Africa accounts for only 29% of output and this hampers development in key areas where Africa still lags behind inspite of an abundance of natural resources. These areas include: energy, manufacturing, space exploration and extractive industries.
The research landscape in Kenya is worrying, because studies have revealed thata vast percentage of its researchers are not from Africathey are mainly drawn from Western scholarship. As such, majority go back to their countries often after 2 years thus, hampering sustainable measures to promote local knowledge co-production and cascade meaningful skills. For example 39% and 48% of all East and Southern African researchers are not local.
Social science research is a key area of publications in Africa, however we contend that the current array of constraints in Africa require constant adaptation and rethinking within the policy and practice environments. Therefore there is need for more indigenous nuanced contextualized research.
Why we must cherish research
It is evident more research needs to be produced by African scholars in Africa with a clear on focus on institutions of higher learning as spaces of relevant and responsive knowledge production and consumption. We need young African scholars to have a cherished relationship with research, to appreciate the benefits of rigorous research and use it as a platform to give voice to their realities.
We anticipate to reframe the current dominant narrative and gaze on Africa as a place of scarcity and deplete to a place where vibrant quality transformative research which drives tangible impact in various fields is sustained. We hope to do so by joining hands with other scholars who push for the retelling Africa stories with the recognition that Africa today exists within a hybridity of cultural, economic, social, political manifestations and articulated by a multiplicity of voices. To do this, we call out to researchers to employmeaningful participatory multiple methods that are sensitize to diverse ways of knowing,of theoretical stancesand of being.We hope African Scholars can have opportunities to conduct research in other continents so as share their knowledge and to bridge the inequalities of who tells whose story and who is listened to.
Therefore, we hope to reposition Africa from been sites of knowledge extraction and implementers of programs developed from without to places that co-produce knowledges that are relevant to the fluid needs of the continent and dialogue on equal partnership level with other contexts.
The intellectual capacity of African researchers is not in question an enabling environment that allows the countries retain and rejuvenate research talent and constantly mitigates research entry and sustenance barriers is what needs to be urgently enhanced. These environments not only include the school spaces, but the virtual spaces, the academic literature spaces (libraries), the remuneration spaces, infrastructural spaces amongst others. This will drive innovative research even with STEM topics and other subjects.
We appreciate the diversity of African contexts and view this as a resource that still remains under tapped. We support more inter African research collaborations (in country) as well as intra country collaborations so as to strengthen peer to peer learning, institutional learning. We hope to grow a network of peers who leverage on language and cultural parallels to push Africa’s research agenda a notch higher.
Content developed by Aurelia Munene