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16 African universities receive £20m UK grant for research

BY: Kester Aburam Korankye
Prof. Ernest Aryeetey — Secretary-General of ARUA
Prof. Ernest Aryeetey — Secretary-General of ARUA

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), made up of 16 universities, has received a £20 million grant from the United Kingdom to investigate the big issues facing the world such as climate change and resilience, pollution and environmental degradation and disease and improved health.

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).

The Secretary-General of ARUA, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, told the Daily Graphic in an interview last week that ARUA had since its inception created centres of research excellence that closely aligned with the UNSDGs.

He explained that the grant was, therefore, expected to fund research in 13 thematic areas that were peculiar to the development of Africa.

“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.

ARUA, N8 meeting

Prof. Aryeetey was speaking to the paper after a two-day workshop that brought together more than 120 researchers and research managers from 15 ARUA universities and eight N8 universities (a partnership between eight research universities in the north of England) at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research of the University of Ghana.

The workshop, which was structured to give the participants the opportunity to develop their common interests in specific aspects of the SDGs into possible research projects, also afforded the participants the platform to share expertise and build on complementary research strengths, Prof. Aryeetey said.

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Independence

Asked about how the academia in Africa could shift from being aid-dependent and find alternative sources of funding, Prof. Aryeetey said, “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 said.

Partnerships

Prof. Aryeetey commended the UK government for the grant and charged African governments to emulate the gesture and support research projects to propel development in Africa.

“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.

The workshop was opened by the British High Commissioner to Ghana, His Excellency Iain Walker, who emphasised the UK government’s commitment to education and pledged his support to ARUA.