Research and Development in Africa

Posted on February 19, 2016 01:20 am

Africa is home to more than a billion people who are now living in a changing global economy where knowledge and intellectual capital are more valued than other resources. However, research infrastructure in Africa seems scattered and overlapping. For a long time,I have been wondering what is the specific role of scientific research in universities across Africa.Are they responsible for producing basic research or applied research? In addition,what is the role of government research institutions and whose role is it in commercializing inventions.The role of research units in many government institutions and ministries roles are unknown and the question that lingers on my mind is whether they are still relevant to help their respective countries become competitive in the world.These unanswered questions reflect the fact that African countries may not be fully ready to compete in the global knowledge economy. In a developed country, such as Denmark, Finland, or even Australia where I have deep insights, sophisticated research infrastructure is well established to ensure the competitiveness of the nation. Structured efforts are made to ensure that they can take part and engage in the global knowledge economy.Universities in Africa need to have a clear research function to support the national research strategy and there’s need to develop a robust scheme to support research infrastructure, processes and outputs. A strong research strategy that focuses on several priority and strategic issues can help African countries reach the next level.

To implement such strategies, research institutions should be innovative.In fact, the African governments should not be afraid to appoint venture capitalists as CEOs of research institutions.From experience, it is not enough to just produce high quality papers because research institutions need to be relevant to the rapidly changing global knowledge economy.There are immediate issues that African countries need to address. First, they need a national level research strategy. The Education Ministries needs to come up with a robust, overarching research strategy that provides a clear direction on where all research investment should be allocated. This research strategy should clearly outline what is expected from research institutions and how it will increase our competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.African countries also need to have a clearer division of labor and closer collaboration between government and private research institutions and universities. Universities in Africa need to have a clear research function to support the national research strategy and research institutions need to have clear research outputs.With funding limitations, Africa research institutions need to be able to tap new emerging opportunities arising from intellectual property rights and technological innovation. I also think research institutions in Africa need to be more entrepreneurial and explorative in the ways in which they find new sources of funding with venture capital and Crowd funding being among the most ideal.Many parties have widely agreed that competitiveness and economic development in each country is highly determined by the level of research and development on every developmental aspect.

The success story of economic development in developed countries and new emerging economies has been supported by the great progress on research and development, which includes not only budget allocation but also human resource development and effectiveness of institutional arrangement.Under well developed research, many innovations have been created and fully used by governmental agencies, private corporations, business people and societies for establishing new opportunities and socio-economic benefits. And finally those creations have been boosting economic growth and strengthening human capability in improving the quality of life.Examining more closely the stage of research and development in African countries, there are still many tasks for its improvement in the future. Although various governmental agencies in charge of research and development in cooperation with international agencies, and also private corporations, have been developing research and development, the results and impact are still far from expectation.The lesson learned from the progress of research and development in developed countries and also in developing economies, it is noted that research and development is one of main drivers for national economic development.African countries should pay much attention to research and development.African countries have many and various natural resources, without improvement on research and development, those resources will not provide any significant impact on national economic growth.There is no other way to increase Africa’s competitiveness at the global level without proper development of research and development. African countries should build quality and competitive human resources, infrastructure and institutions for science and technology.

Contador Harrison