Goethe University researchers create postgraduate academy in Bamako (Mali) – almost € 1 million in funding from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung

FRANKFURT. Researchers from Goethe University and the University of Basel are creating a postgraduate academy in Bamako (Mali). The project, entitled “Pilot Africa Postgraduate Academy” (PAPA), has received € 973,000 from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. The aim is to strengthen fundamental research in the humanities and social sciences in Africa.

The sponsored project “Pilot African Postgraduate Academy” (PAPA) is aimed at early career researchers who have recently completed their doctoral degree in the area of humanities or social sciences and who work at universities in Africa. The goal is to deepen their understanding of the value of science for its own sake and foster their interest in conceptual fundamental research. “Africa is not only in need of applied research based on the needs of the development industry, but of excellent research that makes a contribution to the further development of global knowledge production as well, both in substance and in method,” says Professor Diawara from the Institute for Ethnology at Goethe University, who conceived the Academy together with Professor Elisio Macamo from the University of Basel.

“This project is unique in that the Henkel Stiftung is deliberately promoting the quality of fundamental research in Africa – not career paths or applied research,” says Project Coordinator Dr Stefan Schmid from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Africa Research (ZIAF) at Goethe University. In 2018, Professor Diawara and Professor Macamo approached the Gerda Henkel Stiftung with the idea of developing a project for early career African researchers that was fundamentally different from the usual programmes. Together they will receive € 973,000 in funding from the foundation. The academy will be attached to the independent research centre “Point Sud” in Bamako, Mali, founded by Prof. Mamadou Diawara in 1997.

An educational programme will be set up at the new academy which will encourage the scholars to engage in critical dialogue with their disciplines, the area studies and their identity as scientists with fundamental epistemological questions. The intensive education and supervision of these carefully selected young scientists will enable them to teach and publish at a new level after completing the three-year PAPA cycle.

Twice a year, there will be two-week workshops for 15 selected early career researchers and up to four established academics in Bamako. A mentoring programme will connect high-ranking researchers and award-winners with their homeland institutions. In addition, a strong network will be made available to scientists and academics from francophone African countries living both within and outside of Africa for exchange and common projects.

The project is focused on early career researchers from seven francophone African countries that despite notable progress continue to play only a minor role in global knowledge production. The independent and established researching institution in Mali, Point Sud, constitutes the centre of this project due to its longstanding expertise and far-reaching network with partners throughout Africa. The Centre has been financed by Goethe University since 2003. The PAPA programme will be supported by selected mentors from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mali, Niger and Senegal, who will supervise the scholarship winners and implement the idea of the academy in their scientific environment. Together with the project “The bureaucratization of African Society” in Dakar, the newly founded Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) in Accra, MIASA, the IAS in Stellenbosch and Nantes, and the new Africa Excellence Cluster at the University of Beyreuth, an entire network exists with an express interest in taking the Fellows’ career development to a new level at the end of the project cycle.

The project will be set up at Goethe University and coordinated jointly by Dr Stefan Schmid from Goethe University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (ZIAF) and a new project coordinator at Pont Sud in Bamako. It is scheduled to start in July 2019 and will initially run until July 2022.

Source: Press release from 10 May 2019