Expanding debate and initiatives on equitable global North-South research partnerships are fostering acceptance of the need for greater fairness in the setting of agendas for inquiry, the division of labour within, and the administration of research projects, and in access to resources and rewards – such as academic publications. These advances are helping to shift the ways in which many global North-Africa research collaborations now unfold.
Going beyond equitable partnership modes, further layers of interrelated power in global North-Africa research partnerships need consideration. Variously across the sciences and subject areas, such imbalances can include:
- A focus on identifying research foci within the frame of the Sustainable Development Goals, precluding inquiry on local, African priorities not captured in this global agenda.
- A typically uni-directional development ‘gaze’, which posits the global North as ‘developed’ and Africa as ‘developing’ and forecloses bi-directional investigations of comparable development issues or even a reversed South to North investigation of Northern challenges.
- A dominant use of Western epistemologies, theories and concepts to guide the collection and the interpretation of data, with little application of existing African epistemes and perspectives- or explicit new theorizing from the continent.
- A privileging of global/Northern- over local audiences in the communication of research and its findings – underpinned by an almost exclusive use of Western languages.
- Vast disparities in institutional infrastructures and resources.
- A common positioning of global North institutions as senior- and African institutions as junior partners.
Transforming Africa research and partnership requires concerted efforts by the University of Bristol and other higher education and research institutions to redress the above asymmetries –and to further embed equitable partnership approaches.
Guided by, and together with partners in the continent PARC is embarking on a 12-month initiative to develop an Africa-centred framework, or Charter to underpin such efforts. Co-owned by African constituencies, the Charter is expected to guide, recognize and foster institutional accountability for action that shifts organizational systems, policies and cultures in pursuit of a transformed mode of doing research with Africa.
New standards and models for Africa research collaboration
In conjunction with the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Global Africa Group (GAG), PARC is engaging in two-year initiative, involving workshops, discussion forums and desk based research, to develop and pilot new standards, epistemological frameworks and practice models for equitable research collaboration and knowledge production within the WUN between Africa and institutions outside of the continent.