The three main challenges facing the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts in Africa are (i) Money, (ii) Mentoring and (iii) Mobility. The challenges of funding, proper in-depth mentoring and mobility are obviously not discrete entities separate from each, instead they are closely intertwined and our plans likewise have to be sufficiently integrated to tackle them. These plans are informed by detailed situational analysis of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts in Africa as well as 15 years of direct experience in the field of mentoring and far more years at the chalk-face.
Developing a Fund-Raising and Grant-Writing strategy lies at the heart of all these plans. It is an over-arching necessity for this Strategic Plan to be implemented. Below, we deal with the priorities of the plan, specifically how money will be put to use for the benefit of these scholars, how we will ensure an engaged level of mentoring and how we’ll encourage greater intra-African academic mobility.
A competitive process for funding of continental Research Focus Areas in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts involving collaboration across the continent as well as amongst disciplines and between generations of scholars with clearly stipulated criteria. The choices of specific focus areas should be the result of a concerted collaborative engagement on the priorities to be addressed.
Supporting research units and programmes allowing for cooperation between universities and civil society: Since there are so very many exciting developments in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts outside of universities, it is crucial that the modalities of cooperation between these and the universities are very carefully crafted for their mutual benefit.
Postdoctoral fellowships and dissertation completion scholarships: These should be both a part of the research focus areas noted above, as well entirely individualised to permit a complementary approach between an emphasis on teams of researchers concentrating expertise around a particular topic and the traditional lone researcher of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts. The stipend would afford fellows an entire academic year free from teaching and administrative responsibilities, so that they are able to devote all their time to their research and publications. In the conviction that it is crucial to sustain knowledge production by Africans in Africa.
Mentoring lies at the centre of all our efforts at developing viable communities of Humanities, Social Science and Arts scholars.
Manuscript development workshops: These are intensive, week-long workshops providing a unique environment in which writing is seen as a dialogue between peers and mentors.
Supporting the two imprints of the African Humanities Book Series, Reflections and Cutting Edge. (See https://www.nisc.co.za/ahs). Manuscript mentoring and development editing lie at the heart of the
Support for women researchers in order to address gender disparities evident from the research findings.
Mobilising professional disciplinary associations on the continent.
Developing the capacity of editors of African based scholarly journals in the SSH&A.
Improving the capacity of Deans in SSH&A across the continent.
Tapping into the wisdom of the elders as patrons
Strengthening supervisory capacity
Mentoring the mentors
While mobility will be intrinsically enhanced by the Multi-Country Research Focus Areas above, there is also a need to specifically identify sub-programmes to cover this priority.
These are periods of up to four months allowing fellows to visit approved residency sites on the continent but outside their home country, where they can spend their time researching, writing and networking with disciplinary experts in their fields appointed as mentors. The residencies can also open up huge possibilities for cross-national research collaboration and allow for fellows to be inducted into different academic environments, playing the vital role of creating a broader continental appreciation of the rich diversity of university life in Africa.
These should be awarded to support international travel within Africa and to support locally organised academic activities, such as workshops, colloquia and conferences.
In a climate of such severe restrictions on mobility, it is crucial to ensure effective communication across all contexts noted in this report. In this respect, new media offers unrivalled opportunities for immediate dissemination. It is especially apt that the results and findings of in-depth SSH&A research should be accessible to policymakers and the public at large. There is a real need to develop fora to stimulate conversations on the ethical dilemmas of development and the utility of SSH&A scholarship in solving social problems.