The African Chapter is the umbrella body of the Marie Curie Alumni Association with origins from any of the 54 African countries. What are the challenges of running a huge chapter with a diverse membership and geographical spread? Temilola Oluseyi, the newly elected Chair, shares her vision in this interview.
Temilola comes with a vision to “Enhance the interdisciplinary flow of knowledge among alumni members across different countries in Africa and to encourage networking, research collaborations, and engagements among MCAA members in Africa and the entire MCAA Network and also external stakeholders in academia, industry, governance, and policy making.”
Temilola, in her own words
I am Temilola Oluseyi, from Nigeria, an Analytical and Environmental Chemist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, University of Lagos. I am a Co-Investigator on a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange Project – ‘Synergizing International Research Studies into the Environmental Fate and Behaviour of Toxic Organic Chemicals in the Waste Stream’ (INTERWASTE). I was an EU Sponsored Research secondee on the project from May to November 2017 at the Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Birmingham (UK).
My research interest lies in analysing environmental samples, which address the sources, fate, and behaviour of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). I also study human exposure to POPs with a focus on indoor pathways via inhalation and ingestion of dust and food, measuring levels of these chemicals and their sources, particularly in indoor environments. My other interests include the analysis of potentially toxic elements in contaminated land, sediments, and waters.
I am a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and also a member of the UKRI International Development Peer Review College.
Membership and structure of the African Chapter
“The Chapter was established in 2014 and composed of members from all 54 African countries. The Chapter is open to MCAA members who are of African origin, based in Africa, and/or interested in research in Africa. Since its inception, the Chapter has had four Chairpersons including the current Chair: three females and one male. Members of the Chapter have participated in MCAA global events including the MCAA Conferences and AGMs. The Chapter currently has 128 members ,” explains the Chair.
Due to the diversity and the wide geographical spread, managing the Chapter is not an easy task. Therefore, to ease the management of the Chapter, “the structure of the Chapter was modified in 2019 into two sub-chapters: the Ethiopian (covering north to central Africa), and the Nigerian (west to south Africa), and two sub-groups: the Research Collaboration, and Communication. These sub-groups are headed by Bernard Kanoi, an Assistant Professor in the Division of Malaria Research, Proteo-Science Center, Ehime University, Japan, and Emmanuel Salifu, a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University, USA, respectively.”
Objectives and activities of the Chapter
The African Chapter has a clear objective, according to Temilola; “the Chapter aims to provide a platform for members to network, collaborate, and share experiences, to support innovation, creativity, knowledge advancement, and policy development for Africa and Africans. We hope to achieve these by organising meetings, discussion forums, career development programmes, joint events with national/regional/global partners, and social events that seek to create opportunities for networking and cooperation for societal benefits.”
“The Chapter is open to hosting joint events with other MCAA Chapters and Working Groups, organisations across Africa and outside the continent, that promote similar goals.”
In terms of activities, “the Chapter successfully held its first-ever webinar in October last year, with the theme: Research Mobility. The webinar focused on exploring brain circulation in Africa–EU research relations and featured talks delivered by Wilfred Ukpere from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Bérénice Kimpe from the University of Bayreuth in France, among other discussions,” says the Chair.
Harnessing the potentials of the members of the Chapter
“One of the main challenges we face is that most of our members are based outside of Africa,” lamented the Chair. To address this challenge and harness the potentials of the members for the benefit of the continent, the new leadership is working to “create incentives that will attract our members back to Africa to contribute to the development of the continent through the opportunities offered by the MCAA. We are also exploring the concept of ‘Brain Circulation’, which promotes the circular movement of skilled labour (MCAA African Chapter members) across nations of Africa and other continents. This way we can benefit from our members whether they are resident in Africa or abroad.”
The new leadership is also working on “collecting the full updated data of the members of the Chapter, especially their current affiliations and places of residence. We have observed that member engagement with Chapter activities needs to be improved; and to do this, we need to understand the kind of incentives or motivations that members need. We are doing a membership survey to collect the necessary data for this. Based on the information we receive, we plan to organise events that would be of interest to our members and we hope to see greater participation and engagements.”
“We are excited about the new EURAXESS Africa and are looking forward to working together to link our members to career opportunities, research partnerships, and other avenues for cooperation.”
The Chair is particularly excited about the current efforts of the new leadership in enhancing collaborative research between the members of the Chapter in and outside Africa and other MCAA members, Chapters, and Working Groups. For this, the Chair has this to say: “Currently, we are focusing on establishing our local membership database and encouraging participation and engagements at the Chapter level. However, plans are underway for collaborations with the new EURAXESS Africa. In addition, we have had a recent collaborative meeting with Bérénice Kimpe, the Gateway Manager of the University of Bayreuth in France; hopefully, some positive outcomes are in the pipeline. Some of our members have also been involved in the activities of the AU-EU High Level Policy Dialogue, sharing their experiences as MSCAfunded researchers.”
What can we do to support the Chapter and its members?
The Chair believes that the MCAA members, especially the Board, have a key role to play in supporting the Chapter. “As a unique Chapter (covering a continent rather than a country), we would appreciate some understanding from the Board of the MCAA in terms of how the Chapter is managed and the metrics required to keep the Chapter functional. Any support that can facilitate membership participation and engagement, irrespective of their places of residence, will also be great,” she concludes.