INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON GLOBAL MOBILIZATION OF
INTELLECTUAL RESOURCES FOR
THE DEVELOPMENT AND STABILITY OF AFRICA
1. The International Symposium on Global Mobilization of Intellectual Resources for the Development and Stability of Africa was held on 25 and 26 February 1998 in Tokyo under the auspices of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations University (UNU) and the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). The Symposium was co-chaired by Ambassador Yoichi Hayashi, the Executive Director of the JIIA, and Dr. Abraham Besrat, the Vice-Rector of the UNU, and was attended by high level representatives of twenty-six of the leading research institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and Japan.
2. The objectives of this Symposium were: (i) to discuss the current status of and emerging needs for African research and policy analysis; (ii) to identify challenges and constraints facing African research institutions; (iii) to assess roles of research institutions in assisting policy formulation and affecting public opinion; (iv) to assess existing networks in and on Africa and exchange views and ideas on possible modalities for closer co-operation among research institutions aiming toward the establishment of a global network on African research; and thereby, (v) to promote informed debates on the subject at both governmental and academic levels. It was noted that a report of the Symposium will be disseminated to Africa-focused research institutions and those governments and international organisations participating in the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II) to be held in October 1998.
3. While this Co-chairs' Summary was prepared in consultation with the moderators of all the sessions and with the support of the Secretariat of this Symposium, the Co-chairs are solely responsible for the contents of this document.
II. Current Status of and Emerging Needs for African Research and Policy Analysis
4. It was noted that as African development and stability have been a major focus of international debates and initiatives in recent years, the role of research institutions in and on Africa in assisting policy formulation and influencing public opinions in both African and donor countries has become increasingly important. It was noted that there is an increasing need for their intellectual resources to be mobilized more actively and effectively to meet these challenges. From a longer term perspective, participants recognized a growing importance of capacity building for African institutions of research and higher learning with particular emphasis on their human resource development.
5. It was stressed that the recent changes in Africa, particularly (a) transition to more market-oriented economies, (b) democratization and liberalization, (c) rising of technocracy, (d) growing complexity to manage national economies and politics, and (e) increasing freedom of media, widened the scope of and increase the demand for research activities and policy analysis by Africa-focused research institutions worldwide. These changes have brought multi-faced challenges to Africa, including (a) fundamental needs for better education and training, and research, (b) need for better utilisation of intellectual capacity, and (c) needs for more access to global intellectual resources and information.
6. Against this backdrop, participants found that enhancing and deepening mutual co-operation through the existing schemes and networks among African intellectuals would contribute to strengthening research capabilities of African research institutions. For this end, it was also pointed out that (a) identification of the available resources for African studies, (b) distinction between the short-term target and the mid- or long-term target, and (c) consideration on how to mobilise global intellectual resources for African studies were crucially important at the initial stage of enhanced co-operation. Increased co-operation with the Asian counterparts under a South-South co-operation scheme could also be of particular importance in this regard.
7. At the same time, it was noted that there has been an increased awareness in African countries that "ownership" is a key to African development and stability. This sense of "ownership" requires more pressure at local level as well as from donors for policy formulation. In this regard, the participants noted that African research institutions could play more active role in strengthening African capabilities to formulate and implement their own policies and programmes on a sustained basis. It was also noted that although African research capability should be strengthened primarily through self-help efforts by African countries, international co-operation at various levels to support such efforts would be equally important.
III. Research and Management Capabilities of African Institutions
8. Participants stressed that there is a substantial pool of intellectual capability within Africa, actual and potential. If these capabilities could be utilised more effectively, there would be enormous benefits for the development of the region. However, it was also noted that the current situation in Africa is one where the full potential is far from being realised.
9. A significant factor in explaining this is the lack of material resources. It was pointed out that governments, traditionally the main funders, have cut back severely on funding of research partly as a response to structural adjustment. The low level of funding has had significant impact on research institutions leading to deteriorating physical infrastructure, poor staff morale, woefully inadequate research materials and inadequate funds for research. There was no doubt about the need for greater support of the intellectual infrastructure in Africa.
10. However, there was a consensus among participants that the problems of African research institutions cannot be seen in isolation from the broader domestic social, economic and particularly political environment in which the institutions operate. Participants highlighted a lack of interest in research on the part of governments. The lack of legal and intellectual freedom was also pointed out. In many countries, there has traditionally been an adversarial relationship between the State and research institutions.
11. The external situation and role of external donors will also continue to be important, however. Better opportunities outside the continent have meant that some of the best scholars left their respective countries, the "brain drain", leaving serious deficiencies at the level of leadership of research institutions. African participants stressed that donor-led research initiatives have skewed the research agenda away from local needs and have tended not to use local researchers, resulting in the lack of retention of knowledge in local institutions. It was noted that crucial issue of ownership is likely to remain uncertain because many research institutions in Africa will be dependent on external funding in the medium term.
12. Participants, however, noted that there were a number of successful institutions and initiatives, which governments within Africa and donors could learn from and build upon. At the national level these include some universities and the national policy research institutes supported by the Africa Capacity Building Foundation. At the regional level, initiatives such as the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) have been very successful in strengthening the research and management capabilities of African research institutions. These networks provide a useful intermediary device between funders and researchers, and valuable mechanisms for capacity building and dissemination. Participants agreed that these consortia could provide useful models for networks in other disciplines, both in the natural and social sciences.
13. Participants identified the most pressing issue as to further strengthen the universities within Africa. These include the inadequate financial resources, limited access to advanced knowledge base, and lack of capacity building of teaching and administrative staff. As regards research institutions, five key points were identified: (a) the priority should be on quality of research; (b) there is a need to focus on management competencies as well as research capabilities; (c) core funds should be provided over a long time frame; (d) funds should be concentrated in countries where the State is also promoting a positive intellectual environment; and, (e) there needs to be a stronger link between human resource development and utilisation - to concentrate on the training of specialists in areas that are needed by the market.
IV. Role of Research Institutions in Assisting Policy Formulation and Affecting Public Opinion
14. The fact that government entities and the media are often too busy with day-to-day activities means that there are valuable roles for research institutions to play. These include providing, (i) detailed assessments of past strategies, (ii) analyses with regard to medium and long term issues, and (iii) policy recommendations for discussion based upon these assessments and analyses. It was noted that the contributions of research institutions are most valuable when they are allowed, even encouraged, to provide independent opinions, constructive criticism and new ideas.
15. Despite recent improvement, participants noted that research institutions on the African continent remain very under-utilised in terms of participation in the policy making process. Links between academics and government have been infrequent and the relationship has often one of mutual suspicion rather than one of mutual respect. Researchers are seen to undertake research that is divorced from reality, whereas states have tended not to take an interest in research output for political reasons. However, the beneficial relationship between national policy institutes and policy-makers in certain African and Southeast Asian countries indicate potential valuable lessons for African countries.
16. The dissemination and outreach activities of African research institutions are severely limited at the moment due to both their financial constraints and lack of specialist skills needed. In terms of research publications, many participants indicated the lack of local outlets and limited access to refereed journals. In this regard, networks such as AERC provide a valuable mechanism for dissemination and peer-review of thematic research in economics that could be prompted in other disciplines. Participants agreed on the need for further initiatives to support dissemination and publication activities. Another interesting avenue for further development would be to support training of the media in key development issues and encourage initiatives to build links between the media and research institutions.
17. It was interesting to note that a gap between scholarship and formulation of policy is not just restricted in Africa. The participants from most donor countries indicated that research capacity could be used much more productively in affecting policy towards Africa. In this regard, there is a need not only to mobilise resources for African development and stability between countries, but also to utilise resources much more effectively within each country.
V. Towards the Establishment of a Global Network
18. Through the above discussions, there have emerged, among the participants, common understandings of: (i) the growing demands for African research and policy analysis in recent years; (ii) challenges and constraints facing research institutions today; and, (iii) increasingly important roles played by intellectual resources in the formulation of policy and public opinion on policy issues in relation to African development and stability. Participants further discussed modalities of co-operation among Africa-focused research institutions, building on the experiences gained and lessons learned.
19. While there are several networks in operation within Africa and between African and West European and North American researchers and institutions, participants recognised that it would be useful to expand such networks to include other regions, particularly Asia, in response to the emerging needs for increased South-South co-operation. It was also noted that a global network should be complementary and add to research, human resource development and information dissemination programmes being undertaken within the framework of the existing networks of researchers and institutions in Africa and other regions. Participants noted that the notion of a global network should be pursued in a gradual and incremental manner, starting with a loose network among the interested institutions and existing networks.
20. Regarding the strengthening of global research networks for the development and stability of Africa, a number of points were emphasised:
- Given the importance of ownership and the very time consuming nature of setting up new networks, that any new initiatives should make good use of the existing African networks or those currently in the making. A valuable initiative in this regard would be to develop a network of networks. It is important that this should be a network of institutions, rather than individuals, in order to strengthen research capacity more effectively and to involve younger researchers.
- The first step should be to gather information on existing collaborative schemes and to set up a mechanism for sharing information on research activities. In this regard, participants agreed that it would be very useful to utilise the opportunities presented by the advances in information technology.
- While there is a need for further dialogues between interested institutions of African studies and research on the modalities of a global network, it would be useful to set up some joint programmes among the interested research institutions. In this regard, participants welcomed an offer made by a Japanese participating institution to host a meeting in Tokyo in September 1998 to promote research and capacity building initiatives on and through a joint research project on African development issues in the area of microeconomy.
- In the meantime, governments and international organisations should consider possible modes of their support to the establishment of such a global network of research and higher learning centres in Africa and other regions including Asia in the context of capacity building and South-South co-operation for African development.
21. In conclusion, Mr. Seigi Hinata, Deputy Director-General of the Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, thanked the participants for their valuable contributions and stated that the results of this Symposium, which could become a useful input into the TICAD II process, would be duly reported to the TICAD II Preparatory Committee.