Taking note of local research vital with keen eye on people’s interest

23Nov 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Taking note of local research vital with keen eye on people’s interest

RESEARCHERS in universities and specialised institutions had something to be happy about on Thursday in relation to what President John Magufuli said, upon receiving his honorary doctorate at the University of Dodoma (UDOM).

The president called on ministries and other governmental authorities to use locally directed research findings in executing their routine activities.

That was a well surmised appeal although, as usually happens, implementation may not be quite as easy as would be expected or wished.

The theme the president addressed upon being honoured by UDOM – his vote of thanks, as it were – was that academic and other research institutions need to prioritise funding for research activities to ensure that research studies are locally driven.

He expressed concern that most such surveys tend to be driven by donors, thus failing to meet local expectations and merely helping to augment what donors know about the country and not how to solve its problems.

It’s a valid observation, and it will be interesting seeing how Tanzanian and other researchers or academicians will react to the call, particularly with “local” funding for the respective undertakings hard to come.

One problem is that, almost by definition, credible research entails universal recognition or acceptability – gaining positive ‘peer review,’ as they call it. Thus, if the agenda is locally driven in the strict sense of the word, some quarters might dismiss it as focusing rather excessively on the ‘official’ position or on ‘official’ activities.

Tanzania is not an island. It has working links with various regional, continental and international organisations, with its academic institutions forming part of a global academic and research community.

When one looks at research outputs that can easily be said to be donor-driven, the annual workshops at REPOA being a ready example, one notices that foreign or foreign-based researchers have been close to Tanzanian institutions for years – even decades.

Locally devised and implemented agendas and projects are useful and relevant if they go with time, as former President Benjamin Mkapa notes – in his recently launched memoirs – with respect to the failure of local projects under the Dar es Salaam-based Investment Climate Facility for Africa.

President Magufuli’s appeal will work commendably if it translates into encouragement to Tanzanian researchers or academicians to stand firm in challenging policy assumptions overtaken by events.

It is our hope that all concerned will act on the president’s advice appropriately enough to ensure that research done in Tanzania is to the benefit of our people.

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