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Ministers back pan-African research chair scheme

A handful of African science and education ministries have backed the notion of an African Research Chair Initiative at a meeting in Rwanda on 30 November.

The initiative could be modelled on the South African Research Chairs Initiative, which since 2006 has created over 150 chairs in the country’s universities. The SARChI initiative builds research and training capacity around senior faculty members, many of whom are international appointments.

The meeting was supported and organised by the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, its Next Einstein Forum initiative, and the government of Rwanda.

Ministers or representatives from ministries in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal attended the meeting.

The gathering did not agree concrete mechanisms for funding and running the chairs initiative. It did say, however, that creating 100 such chairs was a realistic prospect, and that the initiative would need to take heed of countries’ varying capabilities.

The ministries will meet again in six months’ time to discuss ways forward.

The ministers also agreed to increase PhD numbers in their countries and boost researcher mobility.

“Our policy recommendations aim to drive human capital development on the continent, contribute to Africa’s efforts to build innovation-led, knowledge-based economies, and create jobs not only during the next decade or so of construction, but also for the next 50 years of operation and maintenance,” said Mimi Kalinda, AIMS spokeswoman.