Africa seeks research genie

June 7, 1996

Top African academics are hoping to raise cash for a research university for the continent in order to cut the brain drain and reliance on foreign staff, as well as providing a safe haven for politically harassed local scholars.

The Nairobi-based African Academy of Sciences and the Research and Development Forum for Science-Led Development in Africa have turned to Unesco to help get the plan off the ground.

They want Unesco to organise a conference to discuss fundraising, inviting United Nations agencies, the World Bank, African Development Bank and African government representatives.

The project is estimated to need about US$1 billion for the construction of the three campuses, $500 million for annual operating costs and about $10 million for research activities.

Project coordinator Thomas Odhiambo says the university aims to break away from the mixed models of dependency on public spending, donor debt-financing and annual budgetary cycles. It will try to raise money from advisory and consultancy services, full-cost tuition fees, endowments, alumni and corporate affiliation, as well as accepting grants and gifts from governments and friendly non-governmental bodies.

Members of the planning task-force include Donald Ekong, a former secretary general of the Association of African Universities and a Ford Foundation scholar-in-residence in South Africa; Lameck Goma, a former minister of education in Zambia; and Christina Nso Mbi, a senior research scientist at the Natural Products Research Institute in Cameroon.

An International Labour Organisation report said 40 per cent of graduates from over 100 universities it surveyed in Sub-Saharan Africa are unemployed.

According to Professor Ekong, there are over 100,000 expatriates working in sub-Saharan Africa, spending 35 per cent of Africa's development aid. The university is expected to reverse this situation.

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