Making a difference in Africa and beyond
Published on 14 July 2023
The University launched its Africa Initiative in November 2022, a new long-term commitment to working in equitable partnership in research, education and engagement, to enrich lives both in Scotland and Africa.
The University’s mission is to make a difference and transform lives locally, nationally and globally, with our social purpose as the core driver of all our activity.
Those principles lie at the heart of our Africa Initiative, a ten-year commitment that has already seen us establish exciting partnerships in Malawi, Nigeria and Ghana, building on long-term strengths and creating new opportunities for engagement. Crucially, this is being done on the basis of more equitable ways of working with partners in the continent.
Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, explained, "Our University Strategy to 2027 reinforces our commitment to social purpose through learning and teaching, research, and engagement and enterprise. Nothing demonstrates our dedication to these aims more than our work with our partners in Africa.
"Issues such as climate change and healthcare delivery know no borders, and we have to work together if we are to improve prospects for people everywhere. Our strategy also focuses on three key themes – population health and wealth; climate action and net zero; and equity and inclusion – all of which are informing our engagement with our partners in Africa."
"We have longstanding relationships in Africa, and have been welcoming students to Dundee from across Africa for decades, particularly from countries like Nigeria and Ghana. We are now working to build on what has gone before to change the way we engage with Africa as partners. This is all about co-creating a new agenda and empowering people as agents for change."
A first major step has been the signing, with all six public universities in Malawi, of the Blantyre Declaration, a shared commitment to co-develop research and cultural links with Malawi based on sustainable and equitable principles. As founding signatories, the University of Dundee, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi University of Business and Applied Science, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Muzuzu University and the University of Malawi have established a group to actively identify opportunities for collaboration and recently came together for a session of the Cross-Party Group on Malawi in the Scottish Parliament.
"The Blantyre Declaration will be the cornerstone of an equitable partnership agreement that demonstrates the commitment of all signatories to empower individuals both in Scotland and Malawi, to build a better future for us all, address mutual challenges and further develop cultural ties," said the Principal.
"The exchange of knowledge and the creation of exciting collaborations and opportunities through these relationships bring mutual benefits and are potentially transformative. We have co-designed and launched a new doctoral scheme to address our shared priorities and look forward to bringing more initiatives online in the coming years."
The commitment to a new way of equitable working has been symbolised with the planting of two Trees of Hope, by the Principal and Professor Sosten Chiotha, the world-renowned Malawian Environmental Scientist who was awarded an honorary degree by the University in November 2022.
The trees – a critically endangered Malawian conifer and a wild sorbus believed to be native to the UK – were planted at the University’s Botanic Garden in Dundee. This followed a similar planting in Malawi when the Principal joined Professor Chiotha and Malawian Cabinet Ministers to plant trees symbolising the fight against the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.
Professor Chiotha said, “These trees are symbols of the growing links between the University and the nation of Malawi, building upon the signing of the Blantyre Declaration. Tree planting is a national priority for Malawi as a way of restoring degraded landscapes to improve ecosystem services to create jobs, improve well-being and to address climate change as enshrined in the Malawi 2063 vision.
“The University of Dundee’s pioneering approach to building truly equitable global partnerships that respond to local needs and fully involve local institutions will make a real difference by contributing to climate action in Malawi, as well as other important developmental challenges facing our country.”
Further initial outcomes of the Africa Initiative have already included an exciting Africa lecture series highlighting our collaborations tackling disease on the continent, and launching a Doctoral Fellowship Scheme that will bring African scholars working at African universities to Dundee to complete their doctorates.
Read more about the Blantyre Declaration.
Professor Iain Gillespie
Professor Sosten Chiotha