African governments must recognise critical role of research- Prof. Yankah

By Belinda Ayamgha/
Jennifer Ansu

Accra, Sept. 27,
GNA – The Inaugural Conference of the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in
Africa (MIASA) has opened in Accra with a call on African governments to
recognise the critical role of research data in the development of the
continent.

They must also bridge
the gap between data and policy.

Professor Kwesi
Yankah, Minister of State for Tertiary Education, speaking at the opening of
the conference, lamented the perennial lack of research data in Africa as well
as the disconnect between research data and policy on the continent, a
situation which was hampering growth.

He noted that the
issue of research and knowledge construction was one of Africa’s weakest points
and a disaster area, considering the need for data to diagnose and provide
solutions for the continent’s problems.

“While Africa accounts
for 12 per cent of the world’s population, it only contributes a little over
one per cent of the global research output, as against three per cent for Latin
America, 27 per cent for Europe, 32 per cent for North America and 31 per cent
for Asia,” he said.

This, he noted, put a
needless negative spotlight on Africa as lacking data, even about itself, for
planning, often relying on external agencies for data about the continent.

He attributed the
cause of the negligible research output, partly to the inertia of African
governments and stakeholders towards research, a problem reflected by the fact
that African governments spent far less of their GDP on research than those in
other parts of the world.

While countries like
South Korea and Israel spend about 3.7 per cent and 4.2 per cent of their GDP
respectively on research, most African countries spend less than 0.5 per cent
of their GDP on research, less than the African Union benchmark of one per
cent.

“The only way we can
forge ahead to improve the lives of our people in Africa is for governments to
invest heavily in research. We cannot continue to be only consumers of research
from other parts of the world and neither can we rely perpetually on research
findings about ourselves from other research scientists,” he stated.

“The disconnect
between research findings and policy is a malaise that needs to be cured. We
must work hard to bring this to an end and I urge fellow African governments to
rise to this challenge and recognise research as central to our growth and
development,” he added.

He commended the
choice of Ghana and the University of Ghana as the site for MIASA, saying it
marked the onset of a major site for advanced research that will move Ghana and
the UG notches higher and sharpen the thrust of government’s agenda for
research, innovation and development.

Dr. Annette Steinich,
representative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, who
are funding MIASA, said MIASA was the most important collaboration of the
Ministry with an African country in the field of humanities and social
sciences, especially, the many global problems such as climate change and
migration, which could only be solved through international cooperation.

“If we want to solve
these problems, we must cooperate with partners in other countries,” she said,
adding that, this highlighted the need international cooperation in research in
order to help partners understand the cultural and other aspects of partner
countries.

This, she said,
underscored the introduction of the new funding models by the Ministry for the
Maria Sybilla Merian centres in India, Mexico, Brazil, and now in Ghana, with a
view to build research infrastructure in countries outside Europe, where topics
can be studied from different specialist perspectives.

Professor Abena Duodu,
MIASA Director at the University of Ghana, told the GNA that MIASA is an
institute in the college of humanities at the UG, and thus an integral part of
the university, and was one of the few Institutes of advanced studies on the
African continent, focused solely of innovative research.

Research teams from
Ghana and other African countries, Europe and other parts of the world will
interrogate questions from various perspectives in order to find answers and
draw both experts and young scholars to have a diffusion of knowledge.

“This Institute of
Advanced studies is going to put the University of Ghana on the research
frontier,” she stated.

The two-day conference
is on the theme “Africa’s Institutions for Sustainable governance” and will
explore three sub-themes, namely the Sustainable Peace and Conflict Management,
Sustainable Democracy and Sustainable Environmental Governance and Rural
transformation in Africa.

GNA

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