8 December 2013

Zimbabwe: African Universities Fail On Policy Research Matters

AFRICAN universities are failing to recommend appropriate policies to their governments because they are weak on policy research resulting in states failing to address problems that affect their people, a senior government official has said.

Addressing African delegates to the launch of a Journal on Public Policy in Africa (Joppa) in Mutare recently, former permanent secretary in the Economic Planning and Investment Promotion ministry, Desire Sibanda said most policy makers were failing to develop policies that could lift millions of people out of poverty.

He said African universities were not proactive in researching, debating and recommending to governments policies that promote development.

"One weakness with African universities that I have observed as a senior civil servant is that our universities compared with those of other continents are not pro-active in researching, debating and recommending to government the implementation of the policies," said Sibanda. "I'm sure this public policy journal will fill this gap. We need more commissioned research projects to assist government in the policy-making process."

He added: "We should have tangible evidence that universities are influencing the policy processes in government through journals."

Sibanda, who sits in the Institute for Economic Development Planning board, said the launch of the journal came at an opportune time when the country had just introduced the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio- Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).

"The new economic policies enunciated in the ZimAsset document are meant to grow the economy by an average of 7% per annum thus making Zimbabwe through the policy become one of the fastest growing economies in the region," said Sibanda. '"I therefore call upon universities and research institutions through this journal to debate the ZimAsset policy implementation and evaluation."

Africa University's Director of the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance, Pamela Machakanja said the key elements of Joppa were designed to promote Afro-centric approaches to policy planning, implementation and evaluation.

"Focus is on the interface between theory and practice and bridging the disconnection that exists between practitioners and academics. Gender mainstreaming is vital and necessary in policy synthesis, implementation and analysis," she said.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Manicaland, Christopher Mushohwe said African policy makers did not understand their policy environment which resulted in them making wrong policies due to inadequate information.

"African policy makers seem to be making choices without adequate information because of poor articulation between political and administrative roles in policy processes. They do not seem to understand their policy environment while millions of people wallow in adjunct poverty," he said.

Mushohwe lamented the low implementation rates in Africa of national development plans for the last two decades which ranged between 5% to 30%.

Joppa is a collaborative initiative of Africa University's Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa), the first ever launched journal for the institution of higher learning.

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