Africa’s academic leaders agree on charter for collaboration

African university heads, research bodies and senior role-players in higher education have agreed on a charter that outlines key principles for fostering transformative research collaborations across the continent.

The Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations was one of the key outcomes of the biennial Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP) in Windhoek, Namibia, under the theme: ‘Advancing Excellence in African Higher Education’.

Organised by the Association of African Universities (AAU) in collaboration with the University of Namibia, the conference, which ended on 7 July, was attended by 400 higher education role-players from across the continent.

While discussions ranged across critical challenges facing the sector, one of the main highlights was the charter which proposed collaboration that would serve a more just and richer, pluriversal global scientific effort across the natural and social sciences, arts and humanities, in which Africa takes its rightful place.

This charter aligns with the core values of the 2022 UNESCO framework on open science and builds on significant, ongoing efforts to promote equity in research partnerships.

These include best practice recommendations based on comprehensive consultations with stakeholders and funders internationally, including the Knowledge Equity Network, and practical instruments such as the Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit.

Above all, this charter draws on, and is imbued with, a long history of pan-African intellectual thought and engagement concerned with upholding and advancing the continent’s contribution to the generation of scientific knowledge.

What does the charter focus on?

The charter is an initiative by the Perivoli Africa Research Centre, or PARC, University of Bristol, in partnership with the University of South Africa’s, Chief Albert Luthuli Research Chair and the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Humanities in Africa, or HUMA.

The initiative is also a joint endeavour of Africa’s foremost higher education bodies and networks, including the AAU, the African Research Universities Alliance, or ARUA, the Inter-University Council of East Africa, or IUCEA, the Association of West African Universities, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, or CODESRIA, the African Academy of Sciences and the International Network for Higher Education in Africa.

In summary, the charter is dedicated to:

• Upholding and advancing Africa’s contribution to the world’s generation of scientific knowledge;

• Expanding Africa-Global North research collaboration;

• Ensuring an increase in ‘Equitable Africa-Global North’ research partnership efforts;

• Emphasising the need for a fundamental rebalancing of the global science and research ecosystem;

• Exploring the potential of transformative research collaborations;

• Levelling the uneven playing field in the Africa-Global production of scientific knowledge: multi-layered power imbalances; and

• Establishing transformative collaborations as best and standard practice.

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