Magazine article Times Higher Education

Diaspora Scholars Return to Africa to Share Expertise

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Diaspora Scholars Return to Africa to Share Expertise

Article excerpt

Matthew Reisz on a fellowship scheme helping to link North American and African academies

What mechanisms are available for academics born in Africa and based in North America to "give something back" to their home continent?

In 2011-12, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (pictured right), vice-chancellor of the United States International University-Africa in Kenya, was commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation to carry out research on the approximately 25,000 "African-born academics in the United States and Canada and how African institutions perceive the diaspora". This led to a 2013 report and plans to set up a pan-African programme whose details he began to draw up with the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York.

This became the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, funded by Carnegie with logistical support from the IIE. An advisory council of prominent academics and administrators in both North America and Africa, chaired by Dr Zeleza, offers strategic direction, while his university provides the secretariat.

The fellowships operate as follows. Institutions in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda put in requests for projects they hope to develop, sometimes naming a scholar they wish to work with. The IIE also has a list of North American scholars from which they can suggest someone with suitable qualifications to spend 14 to 90 days in Africa as a visiting fellow.

The programme has already had four rounds of awards, with more than 240 fellows in all. African institutions, as Dr Zeleza explains, get "access to highly trained North American academics" and a chance to build capacity through "curriculum co-development, collaborative research and engaging in international networks through the diaspora". There have been examples of curriculum development across a wide range of disciplines: "digital media, engineering, health sciences, dentistry, even Swahili".

In most cases, according to Dr Zeleza, the initial visits have led to deeper collaborations: "90 per cent of the fellows have established ongoing relations with the institutions they went to and gone back with their own institutional resources. Over 80 per cent have got their institutions in North America to establish formal relationships with the African universities."

This year's fellowship programme has already enabled African-born North American academics to develop research in geo-environmental engineering in Kenya, design an HIV/Aids curriculum in Nigeria, and establish a laboratory for vascular biology in South Africa. …

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