In 2007 the British Academy and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) began, in conjunction with the African Studies Association of the UK and the Royal African Society, what has become known as 'the Nairobi process', a phrase coined by Prof. Paschal Mihyo of OSSREA. We hope to use the Africa Desk to track and support this growing conversation. We have captured some of the current initiatives to strengthen social sciences and humanities research and would very much welcome details of any related initiatives being pursued within your own institutions, or at national or regional level.
Of course ours is not the only attempt to continue a conversation addressing these critical questions. A series of discussions on the next generation of researchers in Africa was sponsored by the seven US foundations' Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, and are continued in the activities of the Carnegie Corporation and others. Prof. Mahmood Mamdani's widely circulated keynote at Makerere University in April 2011 on 'The Importance of Research in a University' both speaks to these themes and sets our a plan for the renewal of the Makerere Institute for Social Research. They are also reflected in the activities of many individual centres of African studies and of social sciences and humanities work, both within Africa and outside Africa.
2007-2008 - Consultation and Nairobi conference
The British Academy was keen to explore the challenges facing Africa-UK research collaborations in the humanities and the social sciences. A preliminary consultation by the ACU led to the production of an initial report, Frameworks for Africa-UK Collaboration in the Social Sciences and Humanities. This formed the basis of a working conference held in Nairobi in September 2008, bringing together some 60 scholars and research leaders to debated at length the questions posed by the Frameworks report.
Following this meeting the British Academy and the ACU published The Nairobi Report, which sought to draw together the range of responses and ideas collected during the consultation process, and to formulate practical solutions to these. The challenges are substantial and the investments which will be needed to overcome these considerable, and much will need to be tackled at higher levels. However, much can also be done through a renewed, frank and open partnership between African and UK researchers and institutions, and it is hoped that the Nairobi Report might help to inform this dialogue.
2009-2010 - Launch events and workshops in London and Nairobi
The Report was launched in London at the British Academy on Friday, 27 March 2009, and in Kenya on 18 March 2010 at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, based in Nairobi. The occasion was marked with a series of presentations by scholars from the UK and Africa who are involved in initiatives aligned with the findings of the Report, and which serve to demonstrate the effect which the Report has already had across the academic community. Professor Graham Furniss, Chair of the British Academy's Africa Panel and Pro-Director at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, summed up what is now being termed "The Nairobi Process" in his keynote lecture.
2011 - Early career workshop in Johannesburg
A central theme of The Nairobi Report was the critical importance of the early career. In February 2011 a follow-up workshop was held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, organised in conjunction with Higher Education South Africa (HESA) to explore how early career scholars might be better supported, how the UK research community might most usefully offer its support, and recent developments in South Africa.
2012 - Launch of Foundations for the Future: Supporting the early careers of African researchers
Following the Nairobi Report the British Academy commissioned a further study focused on early career support, which was discussed in 2011 at the Wits workshop. This was published by the British Academy and the Association of Commonwealth Universities and launched in London in February 2012 as 'Foundations for the Future'.
2012 - Workshop for Early Career Researchers in Accra
In April 2012 the British Academy, the ACU and RIPS organised a workshop for around 40 early career researchers from West Africa. As well as continuing discussions about how best to support the next generation of African academics, it provided practical training and development session.
ASAUK Writing Workshops
With support from the British Academy, the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) has organised a series of writing workshops in recent years, aiming to offer doctoral or recently post-doctoral students an opportunity to work on their paper with the editor of a journal in a focused, intensive environment. These have been held in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Nairobi, Osogbo (Nigeria), Accra and Lusaka, as well as Cambridge and Birmingham.
Addressing some of the challenges identified in Nairobi, the ACU has also undertaken recent work, funded ny Arcadia, exploring the availability of academic journals in east and southern Africa.
British Academy/ACU publications from or linked to the Nairobi Process
- Foundations for the Future: Supporting the early careers of African researchers
- The Nairobi Report
- Growing Knowledge: access to research in east and southern African universities
- Frameworks for Africa-UK Collaboration in the Social Sciences and Humanities
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