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Visit to Ghana: Leiden University strengthens ties with partners in Africa

Leiden University will deepen its cooperation with knowledge institutions in Africa. During a trip to Ghana, a delegation spoke with several African knowledge institutions about intensifying their collaboration.

Vaccine development, climate change, and entrepreneurship and innovation: these are just some of the many fields in which researchers from Leiden University work with partners in Africa. With its Africa strategy, which comes from the university’s ambitions in its Strategic Plan to strengthen its strategic collaborations, the university intends to intensify such collaborations. It is doing so by consolidating the knowledge within the university. It also wants to help improve the position and influence of African researchers (particularly young researchers) and to work together on knowledge production.

Urgent global challenges

The delegation visited the University of Ghana’s International Week in Accra from 21 to 25 May. It included Leiden researchers, the Dean of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) strategic alliance and representatives from the University of Edinburgh (a strategic partner of Leiden). The group spoke with knowledge institutions from Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa about shared priorities for further collaboration in areas such as biomedical research, sustainability and cultural heritage. 

‘The workshops we did offered concrete ways to work together: PhD training, field schools and thesis labs, for example’, said Associate Professor David Ehrhardt (LUC and co-chair of the Leiden African Studies Assembly).

‘I was challenged this week to explore across-the-board collaborations to tackle urgent global challenges’, said Elsie Onsongo (Director of the LDE Centre for Frugal Innovation in Nairobi).

South-South collaboration

Collaboration between Africa and Southeast Asia, with which Leiden University also has close ties, received particular attention. The Leiden-based International Institute for Asian Studies is building South-South networks of researchers focusing on topics such as urbanisation. ‘We often look to the North for good examples’, said Lalita Hanwong (Kasetsart University, Thailand). ‘But there are striking similarities between Southeast Asia and Africa in their flora and fauna, food, culture and colonial history. The more I get to know my colleagues from Africa, the more I understand about ourselves.’

Africa Platform

One aspect of Leiden’s Africa strategy is to develop the current LeidenASA netwerk into an Africa Platform where those focusing on Africa can find each other. It will bring together researchers, students, funding opportunities and teaching to create synergies between different initiatives. The platform, which will be officially launched at the end of 2024, will also be a channel for questions and ideas from outside.

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