On the African continent, the Carnegie Corporation of New York seeks to stop the devastation and bridge the gap by funding interventionist programmes targeted at bringing diaspora knowledge producers to the continent, to fill the gaps. In academia, the transition to becoming producers of knowledge requires a shift in thinking and practice.


From philosophy to information science, Nigeria, and indeed the whole of Africa, have not been able to use their institutions, practices, policies and their contexts for knowledge production to generate wealth. Human capital flight, known as brain drain, affected Nigeria tremendously, as it did every country in Africa in significant ways. Using Nigeria as an example, as our best left in droves, the economic loss in the capital they could have brought in, drilled holes in the economy. The knowledge and development they could have used to benefit Nigeria, stunted human capital development at home, to the benefit of their host countries. Also, the loss of not being able to help in educating the next generation, created a quality gap in Nigerian universities, with devastating effects. Nigeria started losing its mind with the exodus of its brightest and best.

On the African continent, the Carnegie Corporation of New York seeks to stop the devastation and bridge the gap by funding interventionist programmes targeted at bringing diaspora knowledge producers to the continent, to fill the gaps. In academia, the transition to becoming producers of knowledge requires a shift in thinking and practice. Given their exposure to global best practices and rigorous peer review, the diaspora academic is able to strike a balance in his role as knowledge producer, because research is the focus of faculty work, as well as his role as a knowledge consumer.

One of such programmes was the Continental Forum on the diaspora and revitalisation of higher education in Africa, incubated by late Professor Pius Adesanmi. It was held at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from November 13-14, 2019. It was organised by the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University and the Citizen and Diaspora Organisation (CIDO) unit of the African Union.

Funding for education reared its head throughout the two days at the AU… CIDO is working on a declaration from the forum’s recommendation for the creation of a continental policy that can be localised to address funding gaps in tertiary education and the strengthening of diaspora engagement funding channels, like those established by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund.


The Chinese and the Indians have shown us that human capital development can change Africa’s destiny. They have demonstrated that a turn around can happen in a generation. Africa’s renaissance is predicated on the education and skills development of its youthful population. By the first few hours of the conference, there was consensus that the revitalisation of tertiary education depends on the exchange of people, ideas, procedures, technologies and resources, as well as a change in the institutional arrangements of our universities to fit into the ever evolving wheel of knowledge production. Nigeria, like other countries in Africa, can bridge the knowledge production gap by encouraging academic enterprise and commitment to producing innovative and dynamic scholarship.

Funding for education reared its head throughout the two days at the AU. It has been established that the nature of a country’s education today is the nature of its economy in twenty years. Africa must pick its poison. It is instructive that diaspora engagement on the continent, like the University of Ghana, Legon’s Pan African Doctoral Academy (PADA) and the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP) are donor funded. Both programmes, sponsored by Carnegie, are bridging existing gaps in knowledge production by adding value to academic enterprise through their commitment to producing innovative and
dynamic scholarship. CIDO is working on a declaration from the forum’s recommendation for the creation of a continental policy that can be localised to address funding gaps in tertiary education and the strengthening of diaspora engagement funding channels, like those established by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund. The proposed African Union Diaspora Fund is also another platform that be used to mobilise funds for further diaspora engagements on the continent.

China and India shared their success stories on how the establishment of funding lines by government to incentivise diaspora academics, who are interested in returning, contributed to the revitalisation of higher education in their respective countries. Diaspora engagement programmes run by PADA, CADFP and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), are all donor funded. At some point, the funding windows will close, and what would happen after that? To improve education outcomes, national governments should provide dedicated funding lines to support more diaspora engagement in the revitalisation of higher education in Africa. Participants proposed the formation of a Consortium of African Diaspora Scholars Programme to leverage the generosity and the success of the Carnegie programme into a consortium of African Diaspora Scholars’ Programme under which all diaspora engagements in Africa will be coordinated. With a unified code, knowledge will be better produced by strategic alliances between institutions in Africa and their counterparts in Europe, Asia and North America.

Due to the lack of adequate information, unmanaged expectations and resentment from academics at home combine to mar engagement for visiting scholars. Participants agreed on developing a toolkit to guide intending academic diaspora scholars and their host universities in managing the intercultural tensions.


Knowing what to expect regarding institutional culture and managing intercultural tensions has been a limiting factor facing diaspora engagements. Due to the lack of adequate information, unmanaged expectations and resentment from academics at home combine to mar engagement for visiting scholars. Participants agreed on developing a toolkit to guide intending academic diaspora scholars and their host universities in managing the intercultural tensions.

The Continental Forum was preceded by three commissioned research, which investigated the policy and resource mobilisation dimensions, as well as the experiences of other countries and regions in the management of the academic diaspora. Its mandate was an operational follow-up to the Dakar Summit of 2015, from the specific context of African diaspora engagement. Participants from relevant stakeholder groups, including the African Union Commission, AU member states, focal agencies for the diaspora and education, heads of relevant government agencies, African diaspora programme administrators, academic leaders, strategic partners from CODESRIA, PADA, the Pan African University (PAU), the Association of African Universities (AAU), and funders were represented at the Forum. In all, the Forum drew seventy seven (77) participants from ten countries in Africa, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia. Academics from Australia, Canada, China, India, United Kingdom and United States of America were also present. It was a good effort to bringing knowledge production into continental focus.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo