Professor Justice N. Bawole, Dean of the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), spoke on “Collaboration between African Universities and Industry” at a roundtable discussion on research in Africa, as part of the College-Level Celebration of the Day of Scientific Renaissance of Africa (DSRA), held on Monday, 27th June 2022, at the Cedi Conference Centre (Auditorium), Department of Economics, University of Ghana.
Sharing his thoughts on the topic, the UGBS Dean indicated that evidence suggests that “African governments have the tendency of not engaging African scholars but are happier to relate to other scholars even if they were younger scholars from across the seas. Accordingly, you will typically find African governments receiving advice from international researchers than they usually do from African-based researchers.” He also mentioned that trust is one of the critical issues that affect collaborations between African universities and industry. “African universities are often described as ‘ivory towers’, typically not too open to receive industry, and the reason is due to the high level of teaching of African universities, who place very little time available for staff to engage industry on a more progressive basis”, Professor Bawole stated.
Another key issue raised by the Dean of the Business School was that industry is very suspicious of African university sites and their researchers. This is because industry players think that innovations and research that African industries are engaged in, do not match what is expected of contributors in Africa. Essentially, African industries are not excited to engage universities. The evidence suggests that if they do, they do so on a sporadic, one-time engagement. That is, if they have a problem and they realise African universities can support them, they call on them. Otherwise, they stay away a lot more. Consequently, researchers from African universities tend to draw back, as they are not interested in exposing their research to them.
Additionally, the extent of bureaucracy in African universities is a major problem that affects the collaboration between these universities and industry. Professor Bawole mentioned that in many places across the world, the Head of a Department can sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or any form of relationship with the company and proceed to do research. However, in African universities, the processes that one has to go through to be able to engage industry, to get an MOU signed, are so bureaucratic, that it becomes very difficult for corporate entities to want to have conversations.
To end his presentation, the Dean of UGBS recommended that the university includes industry in its activities. These industry players could serve as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) on boards in the university and hence be involved in some of the university’s events. The Dean further added, “It is important that we open up and allow the industry to come into our fold, and perhaps that would be the basis for us to have a conversation on sustained support and collaborations.”
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