From June 5th to June 10th, a group of Saldrupians attended a strategic planning workshop for the African Centre of Excellence for Inequalities Research (ACEIR), which was held just outside of Accra. The group included ACEIR director Murray Leibbrandt, the head of the South African ACEIR node Vimal Ranchhod, and additional team members Haajirah Esau, Muna Shifa, and Fabio Diaz. Other South Africa-based team members joined specific sessions via Zoom. The South African contingent met with delegates from the other country nodes, which are based in Ghana and Kenya, as well as a few invited guests including Ernest Aryeety, who is the Secretary General of the African Research Universities Alliance.
The purpose of the workshop was to reflect on ACEIR’s journey since it was established just over four years ago, to take stock of the current opportunities and challenges, and to charter a course forward for the next five-year cycle.
This was the first in-person meeting of the group since 2019, due to disruptions and travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop was extremely productive, and the agenda included our research themes, data availability, skills training, governance, fund raising, succession planning, and career path development for younger researchers. There was also a discussion on the linkages between academic research and policy-making, and how ACEIR could increase the social impact of their work.
Overall, the workshop was a tremendous success. One of the key messages that emerged from the concluding session was how much everyone enjoyed having in-person workshops again. The emergence of virtual meetings during the pandemic was invaluable given the circumstances, but they remain rather poor substitutes for relationship building and collectively engaging with complex problems and creative processes.