By Kefa Senoga
Partnerships. Synergies. Everyone who attended the most recent Africa Policy Center’s (APC) public lecture likely left thinking about these two key words. The lecture, held in the International Christian Medical Institute (ICMI) hall of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) main campus (Mukono), featured Dr. Anthony Mveyanga, development economist and policy advisor.
(Dr. Mveyange also is featured in a June 2022 UCU podcast.)
Making a case for partnerships, Mveyange said they help to maximize impact to influence future policy changes. Like marriage, partnerships should be based on mutuality and coherence of interest, Mveyange, a renowned African scholar, argued during his presentation before senior UCU academic and administrative staff.
Mveyange called for “multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research synergy,” arguing that it will be difficult to get funding for a research project that has no evidence of collaboration “because of the perception that we cannot address public policy from one angle.”
To drive his point home, Mveyange offered lessons from the experience of collaborations that his employer has been engaged in in the recent past.
Mveyange, who has key competencies in strategic leadership, partnerships and collaborations, is the Executive Director of the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), an independent, nonpartisan pan-African non-profit organization in Nairobi, Kenya. that works to enhance research excellence in governance and public policy.
“As PASGR, we are partners with different universities across the continent and this is because we realized that for us to achieve our mission and vision, we cannot deliver on our own,” Mveyange said during his presentation that he made in mid-June.
He cited two significant African initiatives – the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and COVAX – which require different countries to work together and share data.
Despite Mveyange’s postulation, he is fully aware that there are some researchers who undermine others, and would, therefore, not embrace partnerships. He says such behaviour is toxic, and cannot offer a favourable environment for partnerships to blossom.
At the public lecture, Mveyange also challenged the audience to ensure that their research influences public policy and aims at solving challenges within the communities where it is being conducted.
“If you are doing research by creating knowledge, there are other issues beyond generating that knowledge,” he stated. “How do you translate that research and knowledge into meaningful tangible outputs that can actually speak to the challenges that the people of the continent are facing?”
Director of the African Policy Center, Dr. Emilly Comfort Maractho, elaborated on the question, noting, “We recognize that a lot of research happens within the university, but little gets translated into policy or is known by the people outside of the academia…the APC seeks to bridge that gap between research and policy.”
She also explained that partnerships evolve by engaging stakeholders.
Maractho commended PASGR for their work in capacity building, noting that she is one of the people who have benefited from the organisation, ever since she joined in 2012 as a researcher trainee in the professional development unit.
Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito, the Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation at UCU, thanked the team from PASGR for visiting the university and sharing their insights on the value of partnerships.
“As a university, we are excited about this opportunity because we know that partnerships are key,” Kizito said, re-echoing a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The APC was officially launched by UCU in 2016 as a think tank that creates a platform for developing indigenous capacity for ideas generation and policy formulation, analysis and research agenda setting from an African Christian perspective.
Speaking to Uganda Partners upon assuming office as Director of APC in 2021, Maractho said she hopes to see the center grow into one where public policy actors “will look to for alternative policy positions.”
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