AT the third annual dissemination conference for Makerere University held at Hotel Africana on April 11, Prof Mahamood Mamdani said African universities do not produce researchers but local informers to non-governmental organisations.
This statement was captured and appeared in a publication by Laura Freschi in May. As a coordinator of research and graduate training at Makerere University, and the person responsible for various development partner collaboration initiatives, I am compelled to respond to this statement.
Many development partners and organisations have supported Makerere University over the last three decades to promote research.
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), for instance, has supported Makerere since 2000 and about $64m has been committed to support joint research training between Makerere and 12 Swedish institutions.
Through this funding, over 200 PhDs have been trained and many laboratories in faculties of Technology, Agriculture, Medicine and Public Health, Biochemistry have been equipped with modern science facilities.
In order for research to move forward, Sida and European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDTCP) supported reforms in research coordination and management. This was expanded to include university-wide reforms in finance and administration, teaching and learning, including college formation.
In order for researchers to benefit from these funding sources, they write proposals which must identify important national or global problems they wish to address. It is, therefore, not true that researchers in Makerere University do not identify problems but respond to the NGOâ€™s needs. What is typical of institutional support to Makerere (Sida, NORAD, Carnegie Corporation of New York) is that Makerere identifies the areas for research support. This is in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005).
The consultancy culture Mamdani talks about may be prevalent among good researchers in social sciences and humanities who are lured into the lucrative business of consultancy.
The NGOs have their own agenda and, therefore, dictate the type of research to be done because they need specific information to justify their existence. Lecturers engage in consultancies to improve their incomes.
I have always argued that lecturers and professors in universities in Uganda are grossly underpaid and naturally, when consultancy opportunities present themselves, they take them up. In order to enhance research in universities, the Government should pay researchers sufficiently.
They will then devote enough time to research in areas identified as important for national development. This will generate new knowledge which may be used in decision-making, in policy formulation, and for economic development through creation of products and commercialisation of research results.
Director of Research and Graduate Training, Makerere University
Mamdani was wrong on Makerere researchers