Carnegie Corporation Awards Nearly $10 Million to Strengthen Post-Grad Training at 4 African Universities; Creates Competitive Fellowships Program in Sciences

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Carnegie Corporation of New York is awarding new grants totaling U.S. $9.8 million to strengthen post-graduate research and training programs and build a cohort of 60 early career scientists as part of the foundation’s efforts to accelerate the development and retention of the next generation of African academics.

Since 2008, Carnegie Corporation, the U.S.-based private grantmaking foundation, has invested U.S. $23 million in scholarships, networks, and post graduate teaching fellowships to address Africa’s critical shortage of university-based researchers and educators.

The announcement was made by Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, during “Developing and Retaining the Next Generation of Academics” a recent two-day conference at Nairobi’s Crowne Plaza Hotel convened by the Corporation. The meeting includes Vice-Chancellors; senior scholars and scientists; bilateral, multilateral and private donors; nongovernmental organizations; and a high level delegation from Carnegie Corporation led by the president.

“As sub-Saharan Africa focuses on reducing poverty and stimulating higher and sustained rates of economic growth, it is imperative that countries invest in the excellence of their universities and educational resources by cultivating new generations of scholars, faculty and researchers,” said Gregorian. “It is these skilled and dedicated academics—across the spectrum of disciplines—whose instruction, mentorship and research will help to nurture a cohort of women and men able and eager not only to contribute to the continued development of democracy and civil society on the African continent but also help their countries become full participants in global progress.”

Omotade (“Tade”) Akin Aina, Carnegie Corporation’s Program Director, Higher Education and Libraries in Africa, added, “Just as the demand for skilled professionals, civil society leaders, and scientists capable of enhancing economic competitiveness and nurturing development reaches a critical point, the supply of well-trained educators and researchers most capable of training Africa’s future leaders are retiring, inadequately trained or not sufficiently inspired to join academia in the first place.”

“The problem is not insurmountable,” said Aina. “Carnegie Corporation is joining in a commitment by African academics to revitalize the continent’s intellectual environment by rebuilding universities as centers of research and training excellence.”

The new grants are designed to help overcome the shortages of qualified academics and educators and advance excellence by strengthening and expanding postgraduate research and training of a new generation of African academics, university librarians and university leaders.

Activities to be funded at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), University of the Witswatersrand (South Africa), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Ghana and the International Foundation for Science include:

  • providing postgraduate training support for more than 120 Ph.D. and M.A. degree holders in disciplines ranging from infectious diseases, civil engineering, economics, global change studies and academic medicine;
  • creating more than 20 postdoctoral fellowships at the four universities;
  • awarding competitive research fellowships to as many as 60 young scientists;
  • providing support for young academics to attend and participate in regional academic seminars, and meetings as well as international conferences;
  • establishing or strengthening postgraduate supervision and mentoring, including via the provision of skills training for supervisors and mentors;
  • developing instructional seminars and workshops to advance the quality of academic research, including seminars on topics including proposal and scientific writing;
  • creating connections and academic exchange programs within Africa and internationally, including linkages and collaborations with Diaspora academics.

Current Africa Program

Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Africa program focuses on higher education and libraries with the goal of harnessing the continent’s most valuable resource—the skills and intellect of its women and men—so that they are prepared to effectively address the larger issues of development and peace and security in Africa.

To develop and retain the next generation of African academics, the foundation supports: 1) four leading African universities to strengthen their capacity to provide high-quality postgraduate training and to retain next-generation academic staff; 2) institution-based disciplinary networks to strengthen postgraduate training capacity by promoting the sharing of training resources across universities and to build scholarly and scientific communities that enhance development and retention of next-generation academics; and 3) fellowship programs to fast-track career development of next-generation academics and build communities of these fellows and mentors to reduce isolation and provide a nurturing environment.

Building on the Past Decade

The foundation’s current next generation program builds upon its efforts to support female scholarship work as well as the foundation's ten-year commitment to strengthen African universities—a strategy the Corporation pursued in collaboration with the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. The Partnership, a multi-foundation collaborative that began in 2000, and whose members together invested nearly half a billion U.S. dollars in 65 universities and colleges across nine countries, closed at the completion of its original 10-year commitment in 2010.

Over the past decade, Carnegie Corporation alone has supported a variety of scholarships and fellowships intended to increase enrollment and retention of women, particularly in science and technology programs. Of the more than 5,000 students in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria supported through this work, many are from disadvantaged backgrounds and from regions of their countries that are traditionally under-represented in universities. In addition to financial support, Carnegie Corporation's initiative has included efforts aimed at encouraging the retention of female students and leadership opportunities.

Since 2000, Carnegie Corporation of New York has invested more than U.S. $70 million in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda).

Carnegie Corporation in Africa: A Brief History

Sub-Saharan Africa has been an important focus of Carnegie Corporation since the foundation initiated work on the continent in the 1920s. Partnering with local organizations in former Commonwealth countries, the Corporation established and has adhered to a strategy of harnessing local scholarship and innovation—or building those skills where they were scarce—to address the challenges of economic and social development. These fundamental principles remain central to Carnegie Corporation’s Africa grantmaking.

The Corporation’s first Africa grant was made in Kenya in 1925 to set up a school to train rural educators. The school was among the first in Africa to be established primarily for the training of teachers. Other early grants provided support for scientific research, public and academic library development, encouragement of adult education, opportunities for technical education for students, and financing of visits to and from Africa by leaders in the education field.

In more than 80 years of Africa grantmaking, program themes have changed and geographic focus has shifted in response to regional demands. Yet the Corporation has been stalwart in its commitment to the mission introduced by Andrew Carnegie: to strengthen access to knowledge and the application of that knowledge by building self-reliant individuals and institutions able to fully participate in the development of their country and their region.