The UoB African Researchers Network organised a Zoom webinar which took place on Thursday 13 August 2020. Augustine Farinola and Mukile Kasongo chaired the discussion, and the languages of the forum were English, French and Russian. Researchers spoke on the different ways in which COVID19 has affected their research, the opportunities and the barriers of researching opening up the talk with questions to Dr Babajide about the benefits of a network. The event was attended by more than ten people across the UK and Africa from a wide range of backgrounds; audience members included academics and PhD researchers. Their different perspectives led to a stimulating discussion and highlighted the importance of such a network to its members.
African-based researchers highlighted several issues affecting their research. Dr André Caputo spoke about the difficulties of collecting data as many institutions are closed as well as collecting interviews from journalists and political leaders. Mr Gabriel Benguela mentioned the issue of travelling between different countries to conduct research and impact on health. Dr Jonas Charles Ndeke discussed the fundamental issue of the internet in Africa, highlighting the impact this can have on collecting data.
For researchers based outside Africa, a similar trend is noticeable. Ms Khadijat Olorunlambe had to cut short her fieldwork trip to Australia due to COVID-19 while Mukile Kasongo had his fieldwork trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia cancelled altogether. However, this pandemic also brought some opportunities. As an example, Augustine Farinola mentioned the opportunities to attend conferences online. It could not have been possible for financial reasons; had it been held on-site. Dr Archibong noted the opportunity to use our time effectively to prepare conference or journal papers. He also suggested that researchers can explore ‘’ different ways of looking at data’’ or explore’’data in a different direction’’ with supervisors ‘approval.
Dr Babajide talked about different ways members can benefit from a network. Members can have first-hand information from African-based scholars and different African perspectives, get new ideas about methodologies and approaches, enhance their CVs with new experiences and skills. He also encourages us to think about this network as a connection for life that goes beyond PhD studies. It is a platform for future research and collaborations. Dr Babajide also summarized the great benefit of sharing experiences in order to develop a broad skillset and to maintain a high level of personal development in this Nigerian saying ‘’if you want to know the way ahead, ask those coming back’’.
Overall, we had a fascinating discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to our next events. To contact us or propose a topic for discussion, please email email@example.com. To join our network, please register at https://uobafricanresearchnetwork.hcommons.org/current-members/