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ARUA-ACU-UKRI Issue Joint Communique on African-UK Research Partnerships

9th June 2021

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Association of Commonwealth (ACU), organized a one-day symposium on 18th March 2021 on the theme, “Africa-UK research partnerships for development – A vision for future success”.

The symposium sought to reflect on the challenges and successes of African-UK research partnerships over the years and to set out a vision for future success that will see continued and improved partnerships.

The virtual event brought together high-level research sector leaders from across Africa and the UK. The discussions focused on three themes that were deemed fundamental to maximising the quality and impact of research collaboration between Africa and the UK, namely:

  • Enhancing research partnerships to tackle global inequalities.
  • Embedding international collaboration in the next generation of researchers
  • Strengthening research systems for more and better research

The Secretary-General of ARUA, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey in his opening remarks, acknowledged the support ARUA was receiving from the UKRI in strengthening its Centres of Excellence (CoEs) programme. While acknowledging the need for ARUA CoEs to restructure because of the ODA/GCRF funding cuts, Prof. Aryeetey indicated that ARUA views its partnership with UKRI as long-term, and that steps needed to be taken to ensure the collaboration was sustained. Prof. Aryeetey indicated that the symposium also provided opportunities for charting a much clearer course towards strengthening Africa/UK partnerships that ensure real and effective capacity building.

Prof. Andrew Thompson, International Lead for the UKRI, shared the history of the GCRF and how these related to the goals of the symposium. He stressed that the GCRF, which is a development fund, seeks to engage researchers in UK universities and to allow them to work closely with partners in the global south. He was happy that researchers in the UK had responded with alacrity to the objectives of the fund, and that the partnership between the UKRI and ARUA was the best demonstration of the extent to which the GCRF was engaging researchers from the global south.

Prof. Thompson further indicated that his interaction with various researchers on the fund underscored his conviction that there was an important moral and intellectual agenda that drove the fund and that any agenda that sought to strengthen it by taking another look at Africa-UK partnerships was welcoming. He noted that the aspirations and ambition of the UKRI were to ensure that Africa-UK partnerships were more equitable, reciprocal and respectful. When these aspirations and ambitions are met, the partnership will be ODI compliant, lead to research that can boost development, and move research and innovation into policymaking and practice.

Dr Joanna Newman, CEO and Secretary-General of the ACU, further acknowledged the equitable, reciprocal and respectable vision of the UKRI, noting that the ACU firmly believes in the vision as key for successful partnerships. Dr. Newman further stated that the symposium was taking place at a very crucial time when the UK economy was experiencing significant challenges with direct consequences for ODA and there was the need to celebrate the achievements of existing partnerships and ensure that the lessons learnt were taken up and incorporated into new partnerships.  She highlighted the ACU’s commitment to sharing best practices on equitable partnerships and the Association’s desire to help create such partnerships.

A high-level strategic communique that includes key points for influencing policy towards increased investment in Africa and UK partnerships has been issued following the event. The communique issued highlights the best practices and key lessons from existing partnerships to ensure more impactful partnerships moving forward. The communique is an important tool for engagements with potential funders as well as provide a future for sustainable Africa-UK partnerships where future investments can strengthen the collaborations to maximize their impact.