Let me start by wishing members of the CODESRIA community a belated happy new year. The Council’s calendar for the second half of 2018 was congested with implementation of programme activities and preparations for the 15th General Assembly. We successfully held the 15th CODESRIA General Assembly here in Dakar in December 2018. Thereafter, the Council offices closed and only resumed in mid-January 2019. But the year 2019 has begun on a promising note, reflecting successes and gains achieved last year.
Last year, the Council tasked itself with addressing three challenges. The first was to consolidate scientific and administrative operations after an internal reform process spearheaded by the Executive Committee. The second was to complete a smooth leadership transition with the arrival of a new Executive Secretary in mid-2017. The third, and perhaps most pressing, was to reaffirm relations with partners and enter into new partnerships as a strategy of scaling up funding for our scientific programmes. These tasks were all achieved.
At the programme level, a new framework for mobilizing research supported by the Council, the Meaning-Making Research Initiative (MRI), was introduced while all Training and Fellowship programmes were undertaken as scheduled. We successfully held the General Assembly, the apex of the Council’s intellectual and governance work. We are happy to note that the momentum for engagement with existing partners was renewed while bringing on board new partners. A significant number of outstanding issues with partners especially revolving around programme and financial reporting were also resolved. Also, work on clearing the publications backlog continued apace and CODESRIA Bulletin is now up-to-date.
In 2019, we intend to build on these modest achievements in our reforms to continue on the path charted out in 2017-2018. First, we aim to ensure more success in programme implementation, expand some programmes while exploring new terrains for research. We will also elaborate better forms of dissemination of research outputs including a programme on reflections on policy. At its core, the Programme will reconceptualise policy engagement posing it as a process rather than a one-off event held at the end of a research cycle.
The Council has just announced the results of the 2018 MRI Research applications and sent out some calls for applications for Research, Training and Fellowship programmes for the 2019 cycle. The number of applicants to all our activities increased, perhaps reaffirming the centrality of the Council in the nurturing of a new generation of academics in the continent. In 2018, for example, the Council received more than double the number of MRI applications when compared to 2017. Also, there were more female applicants in the pool. Most of the applications were judged by an external team of peer reviewers to be of high quality. We therefore decided to fund double the number of proposals budgeted for in 2018. This will cut down on the long process of reviewing new applications as we fund the high quality proposals that were selected from the 2018 pool for the 2019 cycle. Thus, the Council will not advertise for some of the core MRI programmes in 2019. Instead, the double selection for 2018 will be reconstituted into a 2018-2019 cohort of MRI grants. In 2018, the Council introduced a new MRI grant for female researchers in an effort to increase the number of female academics from the community participating in the Council’s activities. We will continue to support this grant for female researchers.
The Council will intensify its resource mobilization efforts in 2019. This is designed to increase the annual budget of the Council and also expand on programmes to cover areas that need urgent attention but for which we scaled back because of financial constraints. Areas that the Council will give renewed focus include academic freedom, peace and security, economic justice, trade and health, and, the overall pan-African anchoring of regional integration initiatives. Further, investment in interdisciplinary conceptual thinking through our methodology training will be prioritised.
The Council will continue with internal reform initiatives focusing on enhancing efficiency and oversight. We will ensure that Secretariat processes enhance the capacity of the Council to serve the community of African scholars efficiently while ensuring judicious use of Council resources. By judicious, we mean that a significant percentage of our resources will go towards execution of scientific activities of the Council. Further, efforts are being made to realize timely communication with our community and ensure wide dissemination of outputs from our scientific activities.
Finally, better service to the CODESRIA community must become the cornerstone of the work of the Council. We will continue reaffirming this position in 2019 and going forward. The Secretariat will improve the quality of its engagement with the community as a strategy to grow the number of active members in good standing. I want to urge the African scholarly community to facilitate our membership recruitment process by paying their annual membership dues. In turn, we will keep our membership fully engaged with the Secretariat. An electronic database of African scholars interacting with the Council is now operational and we would like to hear from you regarding your concerns and achievements in 2019. We want to share your achievements with the community. More work will be done to improve our communication and dissemination processes by launching a new website, digitising most of our operations and uploading our outputs to enhance circulation of books and journals. Our Twitter handle @CODESRIA is active and we want you to follow us.
These are our areas of priority for 2019 and we hope you will fully engage us going forward. Let me thank the community for its support and assure you that the Council remains strong and true to its ideological foundations, robust in its scientific activities and engaging globally as a voice for Africa’s social scientists.
Godwin R. MURUNGA