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The United Kingdom has given a £20 million grant to the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), which is made up of 16 universities.

The universities which will benefit from the grant are expected to investigate some major world challenges such as climate change and resilience, pollution and environmental degradation and disease and improved health.

The grant will also fund research projects led by African academics to help governments on the continent achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Secretary-General of ARUA, Prof Ernest Aryeetey, told the Daily Graphic that ARUA had since its inception created centres of research excellence that closely aligned with the UNSDGs.

He added that the grant was, therefore, expected to fund research in 13 thematic areas that were peculiar to the development of Africa.

“The 13 themes being discussed have been chosen carefully by the African Vice Chancellors to reflect their interest in the SDGs, so the idea is to find the things that trouble Africans and how can we do good research to help deal with these things,” Prof Aryeetey said.

When asked how and when the academia in Africa would stop relying on foreign funds for research Prof Aryeetey said: “that is what we have been working to build all these years and it’s about how you build institutions and structures that are able to work on their own without the government intervening.”

“With this collaboration, African researchers will be able to lead the research programme, an African team can invite the UK to work on a project that the African team is leading and it’s the leadership that is important, and that is how we have been able to change things. We are determining the themes that we want to work on,” he said.

He added that the UK government deserves to be commended but African governments must also support research projects to ensure greater development in the continent.

“We believe strongly that there is no way any African government is going to make a headway with tackling the Sustainable Development Goals without new knowledge, and new knowledge only comes from research; and so if African governments want to achieve the SDGs, they have no choice than to invest in research because what the UK government is doing is that they are saying ‘we agree with you so we are committing £20 million’,” Prof. Aryeetey said.