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Coimbra Group signs Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations

05 July 2023

Julien Bobineau, Chair Development Cooperation Working Group, University of Jena

From July 4 to 7, 2023, the Conference of Rectors, Vice Chancellors & Presidents of African University (COREVIP), was held in Namibia under the title “Advancing Excellence in African Higher Education”, organized by the Association of African Universities (AAU). In addition to important African and European HEI organizations, the Coimbra Group was also represented on site by the Chair of the Development Cooperation Working Group (DC WG), Julien Bobineau. Besides substantive discussions, workshops, and an education fair with over 800 participants from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America, the focus was on the launch of the “Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations”. The Charter aims to establish a new era of equitable South-North and South-South collaboration based on African intellectual thought and to foster African perspectives on research, development, and funding. The document was signed during an official ceremony by various stakeholders, including the Coimbra Group.

The four-day conference focused on topics such as Strategy Development for Advancing Excellence in African HEI, Open Science Policy Dialogues, Research Publishing Strategies, and Research Leadership. A highlight of the conference was the launch and signing of the “Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations”, a joint endeavour of Africa’s major higher education bodies and networks, including the AAU, the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), the Inter-University Council for Eastern Africa (IUCEA), the Association of West African Universities (AWAU), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).

The Charter defines key principles for transformative research collaboration and sets out broad aspirations for change in policy and regulatory frameworks – by HEI and networks, funders, research and HEI assessment bodies, publishers, governments, and international science policy bodies – to establish such a collaboration mode as best and standard. Measures are proposed to reduce global imbalances, such as longer-term programs of Africa-led research on priorities identified in the continent, the centring on African languages at every stage of knowledge production and the initial critical examination and acknowledgement of collaborators’ epistemic positions. From HEIs and HE networks like the Coimbra Group it is expected that they align their organizational policies, guidelines, and internal funding to actively require, enable and reward debate and learning activities on research collaboration.

The Coimbra Group, and its member universities, have a long tradition of cooperation with the African continent in education and in research. The launch of the Charter fits perfectly with the strategic orientation of the DC WG, which aims to dismantle Eurocentric approaches in global cooperation with HEIs in Africa and other parts of the world. Serious orientation towards the ideas, views and needs of our partners outside Europe has always been one of the main concerns of the DC WG and the Coimbra Group as a whole. Therefore, the establishment of equitable South-North partnerships and the promotion of unprejudiced cooperation on a bilateral South-South and trilateral South-South-Nord level have been on the agenda for years. For this reason, the DC WG has been working closely with the Latin America Working Group for more than a year to think South America and Africa more closely together. A deeper cooperation with the AAU is planned on the basis of the charter on the level of the DC WG as well as the enlargement of the Coimbra Group partnerships with other African-centred HEIs from the AAU network.

As Coimbra Group, we explicitly welcome the launch of the “Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations”. We are convinced that the proposals and recommendations underlying the Charter will make an important and sustainable contribution to increasing African participation in global knowledge production and thus creating a more equitable educational landscape. The role of the Coimbra Group will be to work with our African partners and the AAU to promote the principles of the Charter in Europe, to our members, national and international donors, and European institutions.

„Today we need a new common educational policy and more humility on the European side: revision of curricula and encyclopedias, more empowerment of non-European epistemologies and indigenous knowledge, and easier access to resources. (…) In particular, the major European and national research funding programs that our members conducts have little focus on the needs, knowledge, and personnel of African partners. We, as Coimbra Group, are trying to raise awareness among our members and donors about this most important issue and to advocate for a new relativism.“

Julien Bobineau, Coimbra Group, Chair of the Development Cooperation Working Group, University of Jena