Alumni and IFS Join to Consider COVID Responses

Published: 2020-10-28

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

Our new IFS strategy for 2021-2030 has the theme of Investing in Future Scientists. This year of 2020 is one of transition, where we are continuing with elements of the “old” strategy as we begin incorporating parts of the “new”. To learn from this process, we are reflecting on it in several ways, for example, through these monthly blog posts. I will be highlighting our experiences from the IFS Secretariat and I also invite others in the IFS family to share any reflections they may have. This month, we are happy to report on an initiative of the IFS Alumni Associations in Africa, a contribution to the Strategy’s result indicator on improvements in science literacy, via the development of research communities, including Alumni Associations.

Recognizing the importance of designing recovery strategies in a post-COVID world, the IFS Alumni Associations in Africa – together with the IFS Secretariat – are embarking on a series of online consultative meetings, in collaboration with representatives of other regional scientific communities and stakeholders in Africa and globally. The purpose of the meetings is to engage in intensive and targeted deliberations on improved interventions to strengthen the science capacity of early career researchers in Africa in the post-COVID world. The series will enable colleagues to consider issues such as how:

  • COVID-19 has had an impact on the work of early career researchers in Africa
  • Our understandings of COVID-19 help us to define a pathway forward as Africa grapples with addressing the human and socioeconomic concerns, rebuilding societies and avoiding stress on the environment
  • Governments promote policies and strategies that are science-based to address the compound risks facing Africa, and
  • To bring ‘normalcy’ to our lives as lessons are learned to enhance our resilience to future threats of various sorts.

The webinar series will enable the IFS Alumni Associations in Africa to act together with regional initiatives to identify which barriers should be reduced and which enablers should be reinforced to strengthen the science capacity of early career researchers in a post-COVID world. The resulting recommendations are expected to lead to strong endogenous research capacity, develop more contextualized innovations and practices driven by local demands, and promote targeted, purpose-driven regional and global collaboration.

The first webinar in the series was called “Investing in Future Scientists in Africa Post-COVID-19”, held on 21 October 2020. Speaking about the need for strong endogenous research capacity for Africa, Prof Dr Ir Brice Sinsin (University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin) noted the need to encourage demand-driven and home-grown solutions based on science and partnerships. For his part, Prof Mahama Duwiejua (University of Ghana) stressed that mentoring should be a priority.

In her remarks to the webinar, Dr Nighisty Ghezae pointed out that the pandemic impacts IFS grantees’ research in many ways, such as delays in field work and closed laboratories. Beyond the immediate challenges of returning to work, COVID-19 has exposed underlying issues that permeate the current scientific enterprise in Africa, in particular how it is financed and conducted. All institutions, funding agencies and members of the African scientific community should speak openly about the difficulties faced during the current situation. Early career researchers should be involved in decision-making processes as they represent the future of science and academic leadership. The pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity to reflect upon accepted norms and to enact policy, fiscal and non-fiscal change. Dr Ghezae expressed the hope that we can chart a new course for science in Africa, with a focus on supporting the early career researchers which will be the next generation of scientists.

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



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