Building a Knowledge Community in Africa

January 17, 2011
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BRAC began working in Africa in 2006 with the goal of accelerating solutions for poverty reduction and empowerment in the poorest and toughest parts of the continent. While BRAC’s focus has been on implementing programmes and building solid local institutions, we also view ourselves as a knowledge organization – helping to create and disseminate lessons and knowledge that would inform Africa’s development.

BRAC began working in Africa in 2006 with the goal of accelerating solutions for poverty reduction and empowerment in the poorest and toughest parts of the continent. While BRAC’s focus has been on implementing programmes and building solid local institutions, we also view ourselves as a knowledge organization – helping to create and disseminate lessons and knowledge that would inform Africa’s development.
With this goal in mind, BRAC Uganda organised a conference on ‘Creating Useful Knowledge for Africa’s Development’ in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation and Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester, and in association with the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Government of Uganda; Economic Policy Research Centre at Makarere University; and UNICEF. The conference was organised on 14th January 2011 at Makerere University in Kampala.

The Conference highlighted that in order to make policies and programmes for poverty reduction effective, there is a need for high quality and rigorous evidence-based research that takes account of the country and community context. It also emphasised that the process of knowledge creation is not enough: findings and their implications have to be appropriately communicated to policymakers and the public for their impact to be maximised. Participants emphasized that whilst development challenges remain, maximising and sharing important knowledge on development and poverty reduction will help to ensure that opportunities for growth, development and poverty reduction in Africa are realized. These opportunities include the rapid expansion of information technologies, the potential of engaging with diaspora communities, and the emergence of new partners, including some from the global south. Another important agenda is ensuring that research continues in countries experiencing crisis and conflict.

Conference participants also highlighted that research in itself is not enough: researchers also have to place equal emphasis on ‘packaging’ the research in ways that mean it is both timely and relevant to the organisations that can use it: namely governments, NGOs, and civil society in developing policies and programmes for poverty reduction. In addition, the conference concluded that there was also a need for partnership and research networks between different research organisations, both for building capacities, avoiding duplication of efforts, and maximising the impact of research findings.

Umbareen Kuddus, Manager – Knowledge & Communications, BRAC Uganda

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