The University of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology have been named as two host institutions and research bodies to participate in the O.R. Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative (ORTARChI).
The ORTARChI initiative seeks to build on the work of Oliver Tambo, a prominent South African and Pan-Africanist, with a science education background, who believed in creating change through education in cooperation and solidarity with African nations.
Other participating universities in the 15-million dollar research grant project include Botswana International University of Science & Technology, Eduardo Mondlane University, and University Joseph KI-ZERBO, Burkina Faso.
The rest are Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, Makerere University, Uganda, Copperbelt University, Zambia, University of Zambia, and Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania.
Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, at the official outdoor of the initiative in Johannesburg, via zoom, said it would spread and deepen the practice of science and technology in the country.
He said ORTARCHi’s focus of developing expertise and talent to support the modern economy was being driven by science and technology.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the thematic study areas of the two Ghanaian universities would be on food safety and quality as well as entrepreneurship and youth employment.
“Our survival and development as a continent depend on our ability to understand, interpret, select, adapt, use, transmit, produce and commercialise scientific and technological knowledge,” he stated.
Governments could benefit from the institutional expertise and talents developed by top researchers by providing complementary support for research chairs through funding and other policy incentives for research and innovation, the Minister said.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said among them were intellectual property rights protection, Public-Private-Partnerships and the provision of infrastructure for research, innovation, and commercialisation.
ORTARChI is an initiative of South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), in partnership with the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation (OATF), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and seven councils of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Molapo Qhobela, the Chief Executive Officer, NRF of South Africa, said for the next five years the chairs at the public universities in seven countries in Africa would conduct research and support high-end skills development on a diverse range of topics including climate, public health, entrepreneurship and youth employment.
“Aligned to the global concept of research Chairs, these world-class researchers will not only lead multidisciplinary research teams but also train the next generation of researchers,” he said.
Dr Jean Lebel, President, Canada’s International Development Research Centre, said the ORTARChI would provide five years of funding amounting to approximately 15-million dollars, granted after a rigorous review process and in recognition of institutional excellence and capacity in identified disciplines.
It would also ensure commitment to supporting high-quality research leadership and talent as well as to individuals and internationally-recognised researchers.
Dr Lebel said in addition to the support provided through the grant for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, funds would be provided by the NRF and the OATF for 55 African female doctoral students studying under the supervision of the respective chair-holders.
“Through international and regional strategic partnerships, the Chairs will contribute to the development of long-term, mutually beneficial research collaboration on the African Continent,” he said.
Ms Zengeziwe Msimang, Chief Executive Officer, OATF, said the initiative was an important new chapter in the ORTARChI story and also to the man who was not only a committed pan-Africanist but also an advocate of science and technology.
She said the initiative was first announced in 2017 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of one of the most important leaders of South Africa’s liberation struggle, O.R. Tambo.