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Citing Africa podcast

Critical investigations into knowledge production

Hosted by the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa

There is no way we can succeed in the eradication of poverty if the developing world is not part of knowledge creation, its dissemination and utilization to promote innovation."

Mamphela Ramphele, 2000

The Citing Africa podcast investigates knowledge production about and from the African continent. It explores the structural factors shaping the type of information we value, how these inform ideas within universities and international organisations, and what this means for debates on decolonisation.

Topics discussed on the podcast include journal publishing, international research funding, differences between African Studies and other Area Studies, hegemonic ideas within international organisations and the application of postcolonial theory to global health, digital sectors and social policy. 

Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud, Apple Music or by clicking on the episode descriptions below.

Series 1

Series 1 explores academic knowledge production about and from African countries, looking at the ways in which current journal publishing and research funding re-enforces the domination of Northern based scholars in framing academic and policy debates about the continent.

Series 2

Series 2 examines the ways ideas and biases become hegemonic within international organisations working in African countries, focussing on how knowledge and technology shape economic and social development. Upcoming episodes explore topics including how data is collected and used in African countries, and how neglected tropical diseases became a global health issue. This year’s podcasts are all produced by LSE Master’s students from the Department of International Development.

Podcast background

Fact: From 1993 to 2013, the proportion of articles written by Africa-based academics in two leading Africa-focussed journals declined from 30% to 15%. This was not because scholars were submitting fewer articles (actually submissions had increased). In fact, it was as a result of declining acceptance rates.

How could this happen, you may ask? Answering this question led to the birth of Citing Africa.

We decided to talk to as many people as possible to understand the matter: scholars, funders, journal editors, policy makers, students. Our enlightening conversations have formed the basis for our work.

But we do not only want to talk about what is going wrong and why. Series one, in particular, also shares advice on how to navigate the academic system and shines a spotlight on valuable initiatives supporting the work of Africa-based researchers and practitioners.

Listen to series 1

Citing Africa series 1 examines the wider context of knowledge production about the African continent, the barriers for researchers in the global South, and practical tips for young scholars seeking publication.

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Episode 1

Listen: Why acceptance rates are falling and what can we do about it? 

In this episode we discuss the lack of representation by Africa-based scholars in international journals by speaking to scholars Dr Ryan Briggs and Dr Sarah Cummings who have conducted quantitative studies to investigate this issue. We are also joined by Elizabeth Walker, Publisher at Routledge Taylor and Francis, one of the world's leading publishers of scholarly books and journals.

Read the transcript here

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Episode 2

Listen: Consumption and valuation of knowledge in the global North and South 

This episode examines who gets cited as the leading authorities on reading lists in Development and African Studies in four African countries and the UK. We explore whether different ‘silos’ of knowledge are being created as well as examine the barriers to having more diverse and representative reading lists on Development Studies and African Studies courses across countries. Abidah Ferej, Marie-Noelle Nwokolo, Dr Simukai Chigudu and Dr Eyob Gebremariam contributed to this episode. 

Read the transcript here

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Episode 3

Listen: Historical background to the history and challenges

In this episode, we travel back centuries to uncover the history of higher education on the Africa continent. We also examine some of the challenges that have faced tertiary education on the continent in the post-colonial period. Our contributors are Professor Leonard Wantchekon, Professor Thandika Mkandawire and Professor Akosua Adomako-Ampofo.

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Episode 4

Listen: Is African Studies different from LatAm studies?

What can African Studies learn from Latin American Studies? This episode looks at the history of decolonisation within Latin American studies and examines efforts by organisations and scholars to improve North-South knowledge exchange and collaboration.

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Episode 5

Listen: Showcasing North-South knowledge exchange and collaboration

In this episode we explore the North-South divide in African Studies, and the balancing act Africa-based scholars make to remain relevant internationally and on the continent. We will also discuss the work of some organisations in boosting knowledge exchange and collaborations not only internationally but cross-continent.

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Episode 6

Listen: Identifying the right journal for your work

In this episode we provide practical advice for young academics embarking on the process of getting their first work published. We will share tips from leading journal editors and scholars on how to identify the most appropriate journal for your work, and examine the underlying incentives that shape academics’ choices about how they publish and present their work.

Contributors: Mjiba Frehiwot, Laura Mann, Tom Odhiambo, Tin Hinane El Kadi, Gabriel Botchwey, Kwasi Obiri-Danso, Caroline Kihato, Lindsay Whitfield, Nwando Achebe.

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Episode 7

Listen: Dealing with rejection in academia

Criticism and rejection are part of the scholarly experience. Episode 7 gives practical advice on how to deal with feedback from editors and reviewers, as well as tips on how to improve your work. Senior scholars share stories of their own setbacks, inspiring younger researchers who work on Africa to engage with the taboo conversations around 'Revise and Resubmit' and 'Rejection'.

Contributors: Laura Mann, Nwando Achebe, Tinashe Nyamunda, Leonard Wantchekon, Tin Hinane El Kadi

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Episode 8

Listen: The funding environment for African institutions

In this episode we assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current funding environment for social science research in Africa and for Africa-based scholars. Speaking to leading funders about their experiences, we ask where investment to higher education institutions comes from, where opportunities exist, and how knowledge infrastructure can be built.

Speakers: Divine Fuh, Cyril Obi and James Smith.

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Episode 9

Listen: Increasing the representation of Africa-based authors in international journals

The final episode explores current efforts to increase the representation of Africa-based authors in international journals and what more can be done. We address the importance of publishing in these journals for career opportunities, and what declining acceptance rates for Africa-based academics means for scholarship from the continent.

Contributors: Ryan Briggs, Christine Feak, Henrike Florusbosch, Felix Mukwiza Ndahinda, Andy Nobes and Naomi Pendle.

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Episode 10

Listen: An interview with Professor Thandika Mkandawire on African knowledge systems

Thandika Mkandawire talks to Laura Mann about the impact of structural adjustment on African knowledge and economics, the role of CODESRiA in strengthening the autonomy of Africa-based research, and the ideas that have shaped and guided his prestigious career.

Speakers: Thandika Mkandawire and Laura Mann

Listen to series 2

Citing Africa series 2 examines the ways ideas and biases become hegemonic within international organisations working in African countries, focussing on how knowledge and technology shape economic and social development.

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Episode 1

Listen: Introduction. How knowledge and technology shapes development

How does knowledge and technology shape economic and social development? We introduce series two which brings together investigative projects exploring the ways ideas and biases become hegemonic within international organisations working in African countries. The episode reflects on what progress has been made since series one towards reforming scholarly publishing, and how this might impact series two’s focus on ICTs in agriculture, health and development, and public investment in higher education.

Speakers: Dr Laura Mann, Tin El-Kadi, Syerammia Ohene

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Episode 2

Listen: What does data extractivism mean for African development?

This episode explores how data is collected and used in African countries by discussing the power dynamics underpinning data practices. Joined by Kenyan researcher and policy analyst Nanjira Sambuli, working on digital equality, and Ugandan Phd scholar on online privacy Moses Namara, the episode discusses the critical role of the state in building regulations for data as a resource to promote development. It also examines the central role local expertise should play to enable socio-economic transformation that benefits African citizens.

Speakers: Nanjira Sambuli, Moses Namara (Ellen Smeele and Nicole Johnson)

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Episode 3

Listen: Bargaining power and market information systems in agriculture

This episode discusses Market Information Systems (MIS) to understand whether they have managed to increase the bargaining power and economic security of rural farmers. We present two cases that argue although MIS platforms have evolved and demonstrated a capacity for adaptation, there is insufficient evidence to claim these platforms have significantly improved the bargaining power and welfare of rural citizens.

Speakers: Dr Simona Sala (Amanuel Kebede, Sara Zebdi and Jorich Loubser)

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Episode 4

Listen: Digital tech and inclusive social policy

This episode discusses how digital measurement technologies are used in health insurance for risk assessments and the implications for inclusive healthcare systems in Africa. We speak to scholar Dr Andrea Matwyshyn from Penn State University, whose research focuses on the internet of bodies and health technology, as well as to two International Development Master students from LSE. The debate will show that digital health data presents considerable risks for user’s privacy, equal access to health systems and asymmetric power dynamics.

Speakers: Dr Andrea Matwyshyn (Lou Aubay, Charles Rodwell and Victoria Grabenwoeger)

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Episode 5

Listen: Neglected Tropical Diseases: the rise of a global health issue

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect more than a billion people in developing countries, but they remained largely unnoticed by the international community until the the Sustainable Development Goals were drafted in 2015. Discussing why and how ideas ‘go viral’, we speak to LSE Professor Dr Ken Shadlen and NTD specialist at the SCI Foundation Yael Velleman to explore the power dynamics involved in global agenda-setting.

Speakers: Dr Ken Shadlen, Yael Velleman (Regina Guzman, Katie Bullman and Polly Lloyd-Healey)

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Episode 6

Listen: Investissements publics et chômage des jeunes diplômés au Bénin / Public investment and graduate underemployment in Benin

Quelle est la cause du taux de chômage croissant chez les diplômés au Bénin ? À travers une série d'entretiens menés avec des étudiants universitaires et des enseignants, les faiblesses structurelles du système éducatif béninois sont analysées. En s'appuyant sur le cas du Bénin, l'épisode soutient que, en tant qu'externalité positive, l'éducation devrait être accessible à tous et devrait également faire l'objet de subventions publiques.

Speakers: Selena Chavez, Kayla Choun and Heloise Bertrand

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Episode 7

Listen: Explaining the hegemony of financial inclusion

Financial inclusion has not become hegemonic because of its innate potential to improve livelihoods, but because it does not require a fundamental transformation of existing social structures. Instead, it drives the interests of major development actors. In this episode, we are joined by Julie Zollman from Tufts University to discuss financial inclusion and why it has gone viral as a solution for international development.

Speakers: Tao Platt, Jolien Thomas, Sam Cressey and Julie Zollman

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Episode 8

Agriculture and ICTs by Tezzy Dludlu, Meghan Gillis and Audrey Frank 

Available soon

 


Citing Africa is edited and mixed by Boikhutso Tsikane and Syerramia Ohene.

Citing Africa is funded by the LSE Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund, the LSE Department of International Development and the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE) journal.