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Research challenges in Africa

By Lamis Beshir


Research is essential for the development of Africa; it plays an essential role in the generation of new knowledge and the acknowledgement of higher education institutions. The training and investment in young researchers also contribute to the development endeavor and the knowledge translation. Through research, developments in biomedical sciences, social sciences, technology and innovation as well as economy can be achieved. However, the research situation in African institutions is still being challenged.

The challenges of research in Africa are worth exploring. They are not merely academic, but rather a multifaceted situation that is mostly affected by the lack of governmental policies that identify the role research can have on the governmental systems and the public resources.

As a result, there is inadequate training of scientists and researchers, the quality of research is not quite innovative and there are no clear ethical and policy frameworks to support international collaborations in many countries.

Examining the literature has led me to conclude that there are multiple identified challenges in Africa: here are the main four:


1. The lack of Institutional capacities:
Research institutional capacities in Africa have not paralleled capacities in high income countries. Training remains unstructured for scientists and the infrastructure is poor.
Chu, Jayaraman et al have highlighted some criteria of effective research: “Effective research has four pre-requisites: individual research skills and ability, appropriate infrastructure, relevance to national policies, and the ability to contribute to global research and policy needs(Chu, Jayaraman 2014).” Tackling these pre-requisites in essential to overcome some of the obstacles facing research.

2. Resources constraints:
Financial resources are important for research to achieve its endeavor and to disseminate its findings. The funding of research is inadequate; governments in Africa allocate its resources for other competing entities, including food, health care and other basic social services. Large projects’ funding is left to NGO’S, UN system and other agencies such as The Global fund and the African academy of sciences. Except for national censuses and government appointed commissions, the national budgets of many African countries do not include specific funds to research.

Alternative fundraising initiatives can be sought if we are thinking of creating sustainable financial resources for research. International collaborations have the promises of to bring resources, expertise and finding to research institutions. There is also a need to have collaborative research among various universities as well as private sector to boost research activities and to build the necessary infrastructure that support continuing institutional activities (Felicita Njuguna, 2013).

3. Poor Dissemination of results:
The knowledge production is not strong enough to enable African institutions to contribute to development. There are needs for policies to be reinforced to ensure a substantial increase in the number of academic journals and the implementation of a publication policy nationally and internationally.

4. Brain Drain:
Africa also suffers a brain drain of its educated professionals who migrate seeking better wages and employment opportunities. A 2013 report from the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found one in nine Africans with a tertiary education—some 2.9 million people from the continent—were living and working in developed countries North America, Europe and elsewhere (Bairu, 2015).

To conclude, it is worth identifying the exact challenges facing research in Africa to prioritize solutions that can improve the situation. Gathering systematic data is of great need to bridge the current gap. We need to look at research as a multifaceted mission that serves to move the wheel of development of the entire African continent.
There should be a strategic planning and fundraising policies to ensure there are available financial resources. International collaboration is also crucial to build the expertise of researchers and promise the mobilization of funds from institutions in developed countries to those in Africa.
A special emphasis on the curricula that promote innovation and critical thinking should be made to empower human resources for research. Structured and accredited training should be a priority. Faculty and teaching staff leading institutions should ensure continuous training and have a prospective to make a favourable research climate for the coming generations.




Bairu, M. (2015, April 14). In Africa, Moving From A Brain Drain To A Brain Gain. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2015/04/14/in-africa-moving-from-a-brain-drain-to-a-brain-gain/#3b7bb9381649

Felicita Njuguna, F. I. (2013). RESEARCH IN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN AFRICA: Challenges and prospects. European scientific journal.


Lamis Beshir

Medical Doctor

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