Institutions: Overview

One of the most interesting quote of modern African politics is the statement “Africa doesn’t need strong men, it needs strong institutions” by Obama in his first speech as the American president on African soil in Ghana 2009. The academic implications of this statement are best understood by discussing the “Brain Drain” situation which is often sited as causing significant problems throughout Africa.

Many exceptional Kenyans in many different fields can be found in important positions all over the world, these can be considered as the academic equivalent of “strong men”. “Brain Drain” is the concern that some of these exceptional Kenyans are not in Kenya contributing to it’s development. A strong academic institutions is one which is attractive and of interest good academics from all over the world. Strong mathematics institutions would enable Kenya to stop worrying about “Brain Drain” and focus on “Brain Circulation”. Such institutions are not easy to create but AIMS (African Institute for Mathematical Science) has shown that African institutions can be attractive to the global Mathematics community.

An aspect that currently plagues almost all Kenyan academic institutions is isolation. It is extremely difficult for Kenyan academic staff to be part of the international research community. Not only do they have immense teaching loads but it is very expensive to travel outside the country to attend conferences and workshops, particularly since most staff do not their own research budget. This can be partially resolved through bringing conferences and workshops into the country and using the fact that Kenya is recognised as a popular tourist destination to attract international involvement.