28 May 2017

Striving to Keep Africa's Top Brains on African Soil / Don Makatile / Sunday Independent

Striving to Keep Africa's Top Brains on African Soil / Don Makatile / Sunday Independent
28 May 2017

Like most advanced countries of the world that place a high premium on knowledge production, South Africa is home to a whole community of foreign academics who actively contribute to this body of knowledge.

One such academic is Professor Adekeye Adebajo, director of the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Adebajo spent 13 years at the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town.

When asked about it, he reels out a body of work that takes up the burden of the conversation. In his time at the centre, it published, locally and abroad, over 20 books on such varied topics as the South African foreign policy, the AU and its relationship with the EU, helping develop an HIV policy for the Namibian military and assisting the Southern African Development Community (SADC) too.

The centre produced more than 50 seminar reports and assisted in training and building capacity for human rights groups in areas such as gender violence, Adebajo says.

A prominent newspaper columnist himself, he says the centre published at least 200 press articles in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria — his country of origin "so as to get a broader continental reach".

His work has helped raise awareness in South Africa of African issues. In his current position at UJ, Adebajo writes widely on SA-Nigeria bilaterals and has produced reports on the subject for both governments. He has always been passionate about this endeavour "to shape the Pan-African awareness".

Adebajo's expertise could easily have been lost to the continent as he had an offer to work for a New York-based think tank but instead chose to come to South Africa.

Many of Africa's brains are lost to the continent as they have taken up posts overseas.

One who is not lost is Professor Mahmood Mamdani, who gave this year's Thabo Mbeki Africa Day lecture at the ZK Matthews Great Hall at the Unisa Muckleneuk campus on Friday.

Adebajo points out that Mamdani "spends nine months in Uganda and three in California". Mamdani is professor of political history at Columbia University in the US, as well as the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Kampala.

Local universities are aware of the need to keep African talent on the continent's shores.

UJ says it has adopted a vigorous transformation agenda since its establishment in 2005 in order for staff and students to appropriately reflect the national and regional demographics. Of its 110 associate professors 21 are African nationals.

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