Go back

R&D in Africa: ‘We need to invest more’

Image: Craig Nicholson for Research Professional News

Inorms 2023: African Research Universities Alliance head calls for more spending and collaboration

African universities are contributing knowledge that can help achieve sustainable development goals across the continent and around the world, but more spending and support is needed for them to fulfil their potential, according to a leading figure.

Africa’s share of global research outputs has been “rising steadily” for the past 15 years, Ernest Aryeetey (pictured) told the annual conference of the International Network of Research Management Societies in Durban, South Africa, in a keynote talk on 1 June.

The secretary-general of the African Research Universities Alliance (Arua) said via remote address that Africa had made contributions to knowledge generation, particularly in health, and that its universities were making “significant strides” in innovation and technology. This was evident during the Covid-19 pandemic, when Africa conducted clinical trials and genome sequencing, he told the Inorms conference.

But Africa is still spending only about 0.45 per cent of its GDP on R&D, Aryeetey said, far below the African Union target of 1 per cent and the global average of 1.7 per cent. The continent also has too few researchers per person, he added.

“We need to invest more. We need to provide more support,” he told attendees.

Right direction

Universities within Arua are collaborating more with each other, according to Aryeetey, but Arua needs to do more to increase such teamwork with universities that are not yet part of the alliance.

Aryeetey also expressed optimism about centres of excellence that Arua is setting up with the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. These centres, such as one on water sustainability at Rhodes University in South Africa, will bring experts together and build capacity among younger academics, he said.

African universities are also engaging more with policymakers and international organisations on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the similar African Union Agenda 2063 targets, he said. But he added that they need to do more to bring their work on areas such as innovation and technology development to the attention of governments and investors.

“We are moving in the right direction. Maybe not fast enough,” he concluded. “We all need to make a contribution. We need to speed it up.”

Research Professional News is media partner for the Inorms 2023 conference in Durban. Read all of the coverage here.