The Lancet: Repositioning Africa in global knowledge production

14 October, 2018

'Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 13·5% of the global population but less than 1% of global research output. In 2008, Africa produced 27 000 published papers—the same number as The Netherlands. Informed by a nuanced understanding of the causes of the current scenario, we propose action that should be taken by African universities, governments, and development partners to foster the development of research-active universities on the continent.'

So starts a recent Viewpoint paper in The Lancet. The authors propose 'three interlinked actions to revitalise higher education in Africa: differentiation of the higher education system across the continent [differentiation of research-intensive universities]; new funding mechanisms for research-intensive universities; and, new accountability systems for research-intensive universities'.

So what exactly is a 'research-intensive university'? The authors do not offer a specific definition, but some descriptors such as 'research-intensive universities should focus their resources on graduate training and research' (presumably, this does not mean that universities that have a major focus on undergraduate training should be excluded?). A Google search on 'research-intensive universities' found a definition by Leicester University (UK): 'one where the research interests of the lecturers are brought into the teaching.

CITATION: Viewpoint| volume 392, issue 10153, p1163-1166, september 29, 2018

Repositioning Africa in global knowledge production

Prof Sharon Fonn, PhD, Prof Laban Peter Ayiro, PhD, Prof Philip Cotton, PhD, Prof Adam Habib, PhD, Prof Peter Mulwa Felix Mbithi, PhD, Prof Alfred Mtenje, PhD et al.

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Published:August 30, 2018DOI:

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (, which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: