IEE Newsletter No. 28

South African-German Centre for Development Research 10-year anniversary of the Centres of African Excellence

Britta Niklas reports on the network meeting of the Centres of African Excellence

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The network meeting of the Centres of African Excellence brought experts from different subject areas together in Berlin

On the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of the Centres of African Excellence initiative by the Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD, a large network meeting was held in Berlin. There are now 10 university Centres of African Excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa, set up to train highly qualified future managers and leaders by significantly contributing to the quality and relevance of selected disciplines at African universities, the creation of research capacities, and the establishment of networks between African universities and research institutes, including German partners.

For the achievements of the South African-German Centre for Development Research alone, please have a look at the box below, where we have summarized the impact of the Centre and report about the establishment of a new Alumni Association.

The keynote speaker, South African Minister of Higher Education, Naledi Pandor, spoke of the 10 Centres of Excellence as a “foundation of enormous benefit”, as the centres make it possible to train the future leaders of society, academia and business. Naledi Mandisa Pandor, who has worked as a teacher and lecturer, and has now been active for nearly 15 years as a minister in various cabinets of the South African government, sees the education sector as a crucial one, emphasising the long-term perspective - Countries must have the possibility to form their own institutional structures and need a new generation of academics to work in these newly built structures.

Professor Margret Wintermantel, President of the DAAD, emphasised that sustainable development concepts like the Centres for African Excellence are now in demand everywhere, stating that it is now essential to plan the next steps to guarantee the long-term effect of the centres.

The same was stressed by Heidrun Tempel, Deputy Director-General for Research and Academic Relations Policy and Cultural Relations Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, who said that the 10th anniversary also brings a responsibility, and therefore a need, for a strategy of slowly “fading out” existing collaborations.

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© Andreas Paasch
Berlin round table discussion (from left): Christoph Matschie, Heidrun Tempel, discussion leader Claus-Bernhard Pakleppa, Margret Wintermantel, Christoph Kannengießer and Naledi Pandor

During a discussion attended by Pandor; Wintermantel; Tempel; Bundestag foreign committee member, Christoph Matschie; and Chief Executive Officer of the Afrika-Verein der Deutschen Wirtschaft (German-African Business Association), Christoph Kannengießer; the potential of the Centres of African Excellence once again became clear. “This initiative is not just about research,” said Matschie, “but as well about recognising that we are part of a global community, and about taking responsibility for one another.” He thinks that there is no alternative to such collaborations. Kannengießer believes that the initiative is creating ideal conditions for long-term German-African economic cooperation; not in the least because it helps to remove one of the largest obstacles to German investment in Africa: the lack of qualified personnel.

How well the concept actually works in practice was illustrated by the experiences of teachers and learners in Africa. Wilhelm Löwenstein, the Director of the IEE and of the South African Centre of Development Research, called for a change in perspective: “Anyone who thinks our know-how alone can turn highly talented people into highly qualified experts is suffering from a delusion.” It is essential, he added, to give the young academics the opportunity to interact with one another. Three young alumni from Kenya, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed that the greatest benefit for them was the opportunity to form networks.

Wilhelm Löwenstein additionally stressed that it is now crucial to develop new structures around the so called “fading out” of the Centres in order to build on the success of these co-operations and emphasised the need for post graduate education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Minister Pandor was impressed by the “immense capacity” that the DAAD and the Federal Foreign Office have built with the Centres of African Excellence initiative. “I see young academics from many different countries, even those that have previously been completely ignored by the worldwide research community.” And that, she added, is precisely what is needed to bring Africa forward. She finished by saying that African governments must now also invest in these young academics and researchers.

The impact of the SA-GER CDR in numbers:
  • 4823 the number of scholarship applications received from all over Sub-Saharan Africa
  • 78 the number of Master scholarship holders that have been accepted for studies in one of the CDR’s Master programmes
  • 14 the number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that the MA scholarship holders have come from
  • 58 the number of MA scholarship grantees that have completed their studies successfully so far
  • 16% the percentage of Master scholarship holders that have completed two degrees from the CDR; 5% have been accepted for PhD studies afterwards.
  • 16 the number of MA scholarship grantees that are still on their way to graduation
  • 95% the completion rate that will be reached after the remaining candidates have completed their studies.
  • 299 the number of candidates that have graduated from the CDR’s Master programmes
  • 25 the number of PhD scholarship holders from 11 countries that have been accepted for PhD studies at the CDR; 16 of them have completed their projects so far, 8 are still working towards their graduation.
  • 96% the completion rate that will be reached after the remaining PhD candidates will have completed their projects.
  • 38 the number of PhD candidates that have graduated from the Centre’s PhD programmes. All PhD dissertations have been published least electronically
  • 10 the number of CDR PhD scholarship holders that have had the opportunity to complete short-term stays at Ruhr University Bochum
  • 223 the number of publications of SA-GER CDR members

An Alumni network and Alumni activities have been established. In 2016, the CDR took the lead in establishing joint Alumni activities of all African Excellence Centres and applied for DAAD funding of an Alumni conference on tackling the root causes of displacement in Sub-Saharan Africa. The conference took place in November 2017 in South Africa, where more than 80 participants, including Centre Alumni representing 11 countries and 6 African Excellence Centres as well as staff members of CDR and partner centres, took part. At the Alumni conference, a CDR alum took the initiative to establish an African Excellence Centre Alumni group, made of representatives of different African Excellence Centres. This group met at UWC in 2018 to register the Alumni association and further develop its concept.

Netzwerktreffen Berlin 03The SA-GER CDR Team in Berlin: (from left): Isioma Ille, Stefan Buchholz, Britta Niklas, Gabriele

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