Academy set up for African research

January 31, 1997

A SCHEME to revitalise research in Africa is to be launched later this year in an effort to generate home-grown solutions to the continent's many problems including conflict, disease, and famine.

The African Academy of Sciences and Arts, established in the United Kingdom by academics and professionals with an interest in the continent, aims to promote the interests of Africa through collaborative research and publication.

But the academy, which boasts among its board of directors the former president of Zimbabwe and several African and British academics, is still looking for a home - preferably at a university in Cape Town or Durban.

Academics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, will hold a conference in the UK later this year to raise funds for the academy, after which the organisation hopes to set up a secretariat in South Africa.

The AASA will provide a forum for academics from African countries and elsewhere to discuss a range of issues relevant to the continent, and to conduct interdisciplinary research on this issue.

Nicholas Biekpe, a lecturer in Aberystwth's department of accounting and finance and the academy's president, says it has been set up on the understanding that if Africa is to regain her glory, then the unity and collective spirit that served as the ingredient for her success has to be recaptured.

Dr Biekpe, UK-born but whose parents are Ghanaian, said the academy had UK-based members who wanted to move to South Africa to support the secretariat along with African academics.

The plan is to bring intellectuals together from campuses in and outside Africa to research pressing problems in areas ranging from agriculture and medicine to drug trafficking, conflict, security and the environment. There are also plans to publish several journals.

Philip Black, Jagger professor in the school of economics at the University of Cape Town, says the academy is aimed at promoting recognition of Africa and its rich history and to promote its survival and development. The emphasis will be on interdisciplinary research into various fields, and on promoting cooperation between different countries, institutions and individuals in Africa.

The AASA will also launch interdisciplinary journals focusing on African issues, and establish a research facility in South Africa.

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