About the Africa Charter
The Africa Charter
The Charter is an Africa-centred framework for advancing a transformative mode of research collaborations that will serve to advance and uphold the continent’s place in the global production of scientific knowledge.
The Charter was co-created by Africa’s major higher education constituencies, including the Association of African Universities (AAU), African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), African Academy of Sciences (AAS), CODESRIA and International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA) among others.
Principles and aspirations
Drawing on African intellectual thought, analyses of extant global scientific- and equitable partnerships efforts, and dialogue with key HE and research actors in the UK, wider Europe, North America and others across the globe the Charter articulates:
12 principles on how research collaborations need to be configured to redress the multi-layered power imbalances in the global-Africa production of scientific knowledge;
6 aspirations for policy change by individual HEI, networks, funders, research assessment and science governance bodies to ensure that such a transformative collaboration mode is established as best and standard practice.
Following the launch of the Charter on 5 July in Windhoek, Namibia in conjunction with the AAU COREVIP conference an open ‘coalition’ of already close to 100 signatories have endorsed the Charter principles and aspirations, and resolved to support the effort to realise them.
The Charter coalition comprises major African and global University Networks and academic associations, and key higher education institutions (HEI) in the continent, the UK and wider Europe, North America and Latin America.
Find out more about endorsing the Africa Charter
Toward change: realising the Charter’s ambitions
A wider programme of work and engagement will develop targeted implementation frameworks and good practice models, expand intellectual reflection and strengthen capabilities to ensure that the Charter’s principles and aspirations are realised in the global North, the continent and beyond.
The initiative will be driven by exchange and cooperation among Charter ‘coalition’ members, and focused consultation with funders, publishers, research assessment, science governance and academic bodies, globally.
Coordination of the Charter initiative will be provided through a steering group of major partners, a dedicated secretariat and a wider advisory group.
The Charter initiative is facilitated by PARC at the University of Bristol, in partnership with the University of South Africa Chief Albert Luthuli Research Chair and the Institute for Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the problem?
Africa’s present position in the global science system is deeply unfavourable. The continent contributes just a tiny fraction of scientific publications (1.6% in 2018) and researchers (0.7% in 2018) globally. Its scholars and institutions are, with a handful of exceptions, poorly positioned in worldwide rankings. This situation is neither accidental nor harmless: it reflects multiple layers of power imbalances in the production of scientific knowledge that have arisen from colonial histories; and its has negative repercussions for Africa’s economic and political prospects, as well as for the richness global scholarship.
International collaborations with the global North dominate Africa’s scientific effort and, more often than not, help to reproduce the power imbalances.
Why is the Charter necessary?
Because collaborations with the global North dominate Africa’s research effort, changing the way such collaborations are configured has the potential to effect a rebalancing of the system overall – to ensure that African scholars, institutions and knowledges from the continent take their rightful place in the global scientific effort. In other words, these collaboration have the potential to be transformative.
The Charter provides a framework for advancing such transformative research collaborations.
Why was it necessary to come up with the charter at this point in time?
The Africa Charter builds on a long history of African intellectual thought and on more recent perspectives on how to foster more equitable global South-North research partnerships. However, the present moment – with a more acute awareness of the need to undo unjust legacies of colonialism and the urgency of finding better, including radically different, solutions to our collective global crises – is the right time for a much more fundamental and systemic change in research relations between Africa and global North. It is change whose time has come.
How would the charter transform the research landscape on the continent?
With good uptake of the charter’s principles among global north and south universities, we would see African researchers, institutions and their communities following their own lines of inquiry, creating new and innovative research projects, and creating new knowledges to serve the continent and the world.
Such work would underpin a flourishing research ecosystem and the building of renown, globally valued scholarship and expertise in the continent. Such expertise would shape not only national and continental but international agendas, as well as support domestic flourishing. And such a research landscape would be supported by greater investment from within Africa as well as adjusted policies of global funders.
What are the benefits to institutions of signing up to the Charter?
African institutions will gain greater autonomy, capacity and freedom to pursue their priority research agendas, and to produce recognised knowledge — on Africa’s terms and including an African gaze toward the North — about how the world works and ought to work. All institutions, whether in Africa, global North or beyond, will gain an opportunity to join forces to shape a future scientific effort that is more just and urgently needed to address the multiple crises humanity and the planet face.
What should institutions do to get involved?
Please read the draft charter on our website and register your interest, we will then send you a formal declaration of endorsement to sign.
As University of Bristol Vice Chancellor Professor Evelyn Welch said: “We need to not just hold this Charter either on our websites or in our hearts, but actually in practice.”