Links with Africa better than aid 1

July 8, 2005

Africa's loss due to its intellectual diaspora may not be as absolute as The Times Higher coverage suggests (Opinion and Features, July 1). Many of us retain ties with our "mother continent" and often make successful research links with colleagues in African universities. This makes a significant difference to universities on that continent, which can find it hard to gain access to Western research as opposed to "aid".

In such collaborations universities from the West and Africa can be equal partners in intellectual endeavour and gain from staff-student exchanges and research collaborations. While I agree that research institutes need to be supported, there are also the carcasses of great African universities of the past century - Ibadan (Nigeria) Makerere (Uganda) and Fourah Bay (Sierra Leone) to mention a few - that need investment.

Our colleagues in South Africa have managed to cling to their membership of the global intellectual club through good management and maintained investment. This is a model other universities on the continent need to emulate, although the socioeconomic climate elsewhere is distinctly different. There is less investment in African universities north of the Limpopo than to its south and a dearth of academic exchanges, due in no small measure to the quality of life for academics there, two of the key indicators being poor access to educational resources and earnings paid in currencies in permanent devaluation freefall.

It is better for many in Africa that we do what we can from this part of the world - send our remittances home as hard currency and play the waiting game until the continent's economic situation and investment in African universities improves.

Ola Uduku
Strathclyde University

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