We have all participated in research on several occasions both knowingly or unknowingly. Research is a crucial in academia, within governments, in industry and in our daily lives. When the government conducts a census, it is research. Scientists are searching for vaccines through extensive research. When companies measure customer satisfaction, it is research. Researchers across the globe use research to inform decision-making and to gather evidence. Through research new concepts, new methods, new products and new knowledge are developed. Through research, we can satisfy our curiosity. Research involves collection, analysis and interpretation of data using scientific methods. Is Africa doing enough research?
I believe that we are not doing adequate research in Kenya, and in Africa as a whole. As such, we continue to grapple with many challenges whose solutions can be found through research. These challenges cut across different fields. For an understanding of what is ailing Africa and what could be done about it, we need research. Research allows us to carry out in-depth investigations. In Africa, we face challenges that are unique to us. The challenges are in business, medicine, education and even in governments. We, therefore, need to be at the forefront in advocating for research. According to UNESCO, African’s research output represents less than 2.6% of global research. This means we need to invest more in research. The World Economic Forum points out that Africa needs a million researchers to get to the global average of 1150 researchers per capita. It is evident that we are conducting inadequate research and we do not have enough researchers.
The power of conducting research
In the world of business, we need to recognize the power of conducting research and using the findings to guide our decisions. Many in business rely overly on experiences and hearsay. Research can fill information gaps and help us find solutions. Through basic cost-effective research, businesses of all sizes can drive their growth and sustainability. Such research could be around products, consumers and markets. In our business schools today, masters and doctoral students and post-docs continue to conduct research. Unfortunately, this research does not seem to align with the needs of the industry. We need to rethink how we link academia and industry in research.
Over the years, we have made advances in research here in Africa. However, we still have a long way to go and funding of research is not yet our priority. As a continent, are we fully committed to conducting evidence-based research and implementing the findings for a better Africa? Or are we only keen on opinion polls regarding who is likely to win an election? Through systematic studies across different fields, Africa can find viable solutions to the challenges it faces. These challenges continue to negatively influence the quality of life of the majority of its citizens. Focusing more on research will put Africa on the pathway towards transforming itself into the global powerhouse outlined in its Agenda 2063. Without a focus on research, we will stay behind!
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy