2019 • 43

Observing and Funding African Research

Rigas Arvanitis & Johann Mouton


This document presents an overview of (recent) historical as well as current trends in scientific production in Africa. This review clearly shows that there has been a reversal of trends in scientific production that started around the turn of the millennium. Whereas African science was on the decline during the last two decades of the previous millennium, there is now abundant evidence that scientific output is increasing, that Africa’s share of world scientific papers has grown significantly and that inter-national research collaboration has increased substantially. These changes are occurring at the same time as international funding of research in Africa is increasing - especially in the fields of health, environmental sciences and some aspects of agricul-tural sciences. Our analysis of these trends, however, also shows that there remain areas of concern and challenge, viz. the low investment by African governments themselves in (public) Research and Development (R&D) and thus the continued reliance by many countries and universities on foreign funding.
We highlight some of the structural effects the various new funding arrangements have had on scientific research in Africa. We point to three already visible effects: (1) the absolute need to involve national institutions in any new funding landscape; (2) the effects on governance arrangements amidst the increasing complexity of multi-lateral, multi-actor funding frameworks; and (3) the yet largely unknown effects that funding configurations may have on the careers of scientists (especially young scientists) on the continent.
We then discuss three structural constraints of research in Africa: (1) the essential role of universities as the main loci for re-search in Africa; (2) the challenge about investing in research activities in order to promote excellent research; (3) the priority to address the challenges related to employment and the circulation of scientists (in the wake of decades of emigrations of scien-tists and highly skilled workers).
We conclude with a summary overview of the political economy of research in Africa today. We remind the reader of the posi-tive trends in the ‘rise’ of African science, but at the same time make some cautionary notes about the remaining

Working Paper 43
Working Paper 43
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Observing and Funding African Research

[Research Report] Working Paper du Ceped #43, Centre Population et Développement. 2019, 32 p