Social science research on development and research institutes in Africa
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The purpose of this paper is to raise some issues relating to the general state and organisation of social science research on development in Africa, The main centres of social science research are the university departments, research institutes and government ministries. There is a brief discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of these centres. This is followed by a discussion of the structural arrangements and disciplinary and area specialisation of research institutes in Africa. Among the main problem areas which have engaged the attention of social scientists in recent years are rural, development, education, industrialisation, regional, integration, employment, migration and population. The neglected areas include international economic problems, relationship between patterns of development and distribution of economic welfare and decision-making processes in the public sector. It is further argued that the dominant methodology in development research suffers from some, important weaknesses. There is then a discussion of the impact of research on. policy and some proposals are made for a more effective utilisation of research findings. Staff development is identified as the single most important need of research institutes in Africa, This leads to a discussion of the role of external research communities and agencies in strengthening African research institutes. The final section of the paper attempts to illustrate some of the general points made in the earlier discussion by reference to the rural, development research conducted in recent years at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi.