Building research capacity for African institutions: confronting the research leadership gap and lessons from African research leaders

This study explores the competencies of ‘research leadership’ in the African context and strategies for developing it

Abstract

This study explores the meaning and competencies of ‘research leadership’ in the African context and investigates strategies for developing it. Data for the study were gathered through an online survey that targeted recipients of research grants/support from key research funders to selected African institutions. The recipients of these grants were either research leaders or team members.

The study employs a mixed methodology approach with empirical data drawn from focus group discussions and online surveys of English-speaking research leaders and research teams whose research work was supported by the selected funding institutions. In line with literature of leadership styles in Africa, our results suggest that preferred research leadership style for African researchers is different in some ways, especially with its attention to the ‘human touch’. Respondents preferred ‘people/relationship orientated’, ‘task­orientated’ and ‘democratic/participative’ styles of leadership, all of which have strong elements of Ubuntu (humaneness).

The study also showed that leadership development for many in Africa involves mostly ‘learning by doing’ and informal mentoring, and less formal training opportunities. We explore policy implications of our findings with reference to research leadership development in African institutions, paying particular attention to challenges faced by female research leaders, and stress that research leadership development in Africa must be seen as a long-term and continuous activity and calls for more formal leadership development opportunities to complement the existing informal approaches.

This work was supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through a research grant provided by Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR).

Citation

Owusu, F., Kalipeni, E., Awortwi, N. and Kiiru, J.M.M., 2017. Building research capacity for African institutions: confronting the research leadership gap and lessons from African research leaders. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 20(2), pp.220-245.

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Published 1 January 2015