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Pandemic harmed West African research


More than half of academics quizzed for study say they lost funding due to Covid

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges facing researchers in West African universities by strangling funding and hampering travel, a study has found.

The study, compiled by the United Kingdom-based charity Education Sub Saharan Africa, reviewed published literature about how the pandemic has affected research in West Africa.

It also carried out in-depth analyses of how Covid-19 affected research resources and training in two West African institutions: the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny (UFHB) in Côte d’Ivoire and the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.

The two case studies paint dire pictures of the way the pandemic has affected academics. Fifty-eight per cent of researchers at UFHB and 61 per cent of researchers at Cape Coast reported a reduction in research funding.

In Côte d’Ivoire, 77 per cent of researchers reported that their research collaborations had deteriorated. In Ghana, the proportion was 45 per cent.

Academics from both institutions complained of “very limited institutional support” during the pandemic in terms of fieldwork, online training, and funding for research.

Overall, it found that the pandemic has “exacerbated the existing scarcity and inequality” in resource distribution in West African universities.

“Covid-19 has affected career progression of academics, especially early researchers,” the study found. African higher education institutions are “among those most affected” by pandemic measures, including funding cuts, it says.

The authors of the report urge that West African university leaders and policymakers to increase investment in research and introduce incentives to promote a research culture.

“The provision of ad hoc funding for promising research projects will help the researchers to propose and conduct more innovative, tailor-made and timely research,” they write.