Renowned climate scientist Cheikh Mbow in action.

For Cheikh Mbow, the North represented both an imposed curriculum through colonial heritage and the chance to acquire the skills needed to become an emancipated academic capable of creating new knowledge.

His PhD project explored natural resource management in Senegal “but using methods designed in the global North, in particular from France”. During his project he travelled from Senegal to Denmark and was exposed to another way of behaving. At his home institution, the Université de Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, questioning the knowledge and methods of older professors was perceived as misbehavior. In Denmark he experienced a different system. There he was asked to question what was taken for granted even if it meant questioning older professors.

Paradoxically, the Danish system enabled Mbow to become an independent researcher. He became aware of how knowledge and methods inherited from the North were used in an African context without being questioned.

Mbow explains:

After several years of research, I began challenging some of the received knowledge and managed to specify what is particular to Africa. After being able to contextualize knowledge, I was able to create knowledge that concerned and responded to societal needs and local realities in Africa.

This is precisely what the African academy—and its societies more broadly—require.

Collaboration to decolonize

I would argue that collaborative projects such as capacity building programs can be a means to assist African universities in producing contextualized knowledge. These projects can even lead to some sort of decolonization of the academy if they are based on long-term partnerships, a close understanding of historical, political and geographical context, and not least a common exploration of knowledge diversity.

This article is based on a blog that originally appeared here.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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