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South African Embassy, Berlin
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Tel.: +49-30-22073-0
Fax: +49-30-22073-190

Embassy, Topnews, Press

17. December 2014

PR: Excellent Africa. Promoting academic research south of the Sahara

The Gerda Henkel Foundation has set up a new scholarship programme worth 2.5 million euros to promote research by young African and Southeast Asian PhD candidates in the humanities. In celebration of the 100th birthday of its founder Lisa Maskell, the Foundation is providing funds for 100 scholarship years spread over a period of five years. The African part of the initiative is being launched today at a press conference held at the Embassy of South Africa.

“By supporting postgraduates on the African continent the Gerda Henkel Foundation wishes to make a special contribution to the education of African scholars – an education that is entirely independent from the West,” said Dr Michael Hanssler, Chair of the Executive Board of the Foundation, and went on to explain the motivation behind and objective of the new Lisa Maskell Fellowship programme. “It is my hope that our fellows will one day assume top positions in politics, academia and society in their own countries. Meaning they don’t go abroad to Europe or the United States, but use their skills to the benefit of their home countries.”

“There is a great deal of variety between the promotion of academic research in the 54 African states, depending on their economic power, the year the university was founded in the respective country, on political commitment and awareness of the country’s own academic tradition,” Prince Kum'a Ndumbe III, University Professor and founder of the Fondation AfricAvenir International, Cameroon, noted, placing the Foundation’s commitment in an African context. “The Lisa Maskell Fellowship Programme follows this new dynamic and gives African Ph.D. students the opportunity to do research in Africa, get to know their peers from other African universities and work with them closely. The result is a new generation of African academics who thanks to a superb network can make an extraordinary and dynamic contribution to advancing their respective countries, their regions, and the entire continent.”

In implementing the programme the Gerda Henkel Foundation has joined forces with PANGeA (Partner-ship for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics). It is four years ago that leading African universities es-tablished the network with the aim of providing long-term Ph.D. opportunities for their budding academics. The Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences at the prestigious Stellenbosch University (South Africa) forms the centre of the Ph.D. programme. For Dr Cindy Steenekamp, Director of the Graduate School and responsible for coordinating the Lisa Maskell Fellowships, it is essential to prevent qualified humanities scholars from going abroad: “It is imperative to stem the brain drain from Africa and to reverse the decline of science and scholarship in African higher education. Our vision is to promote Africa’s next generation of academics, leaders and professionals through partnership and collaboration on the continent.”

Neema Eliphas Laizer from Tanzania belongs to the first generation of Lisa Maskell Fellows. At the press conference she presented her research project on the literary depiction of Maasai women in no-madic societies.

Thanks to the support from the Gerda Henkel Foundation 25 doctoral students will complete their PhD at Stellenbosch University over the next five years. The majority of scholarship holders come from one of the following countries: Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

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