Resuscitating African University Journals

Resuscitating African University Journals

The argument around the marginalisation of African research on the global podium has been a longstanding and controversial matter over the years.

The above statement is to the extent that unilateral action has been taken by some universities on the continent requiring that publications in international journals alone cannot be deemed the golden ticket to promotion application by academics.

So while it may be good to have a global footprint by publishing in global or international journals of repute – notably ticking the metrics of abstracting and indexing bodies such as Scimago, Scopus, ABDC and CABS, to mention just a few, publishing in “local” journals have now been thrown into the equation. So what and where are these so-called local journals? Who are the custodians of these local journals?

I have discussed the issue and complexity of scholarly publishing on the continent for about a decade now, and nothing seems to have changed, at least not at the envisaged pace. In my article on textbook publishing, this issue was raised. However, the challenge has taken on a new turn in recent years.

Whither African University Publishing?

Indeed, while I was piecing this article together, I decided to do a quick search of the internet, and guess what I found? An article that was published as far back as 2017, “The African university press – A gloomy picture.” Although there were quite a lot of issues raised by in the article, one that stands out for the purpose of this post reads thus:

The African University Press study did not individually profile any Nigerian university presses. I remain particularly interested in university presses in West Africa, and Nigeria in particular, as I was involved with setting up the University of Ife Press (now Obafemi Awolowo University Press) in the early 1970s, and did consultancy work in the late 1980s to review the operations and publications management of Ibadan University Press.

Moreover, a number of Nigerian university presses were founder members of the African Books Collective, or ABC, which I helped to establish along with African colleagues in 1989. At that time, it could be said that those presses were quite active, with diverse lists, and producing some high quality scholarly titles.

Let’s picture this. If African Universities want their faculty members to patronise local journals, then the question that readily comes to mind, for potential contributors, is rightly why? To what extent does my article or research make a global impact? How does it raise my visibility on the global stage? Who recognises the work and on what basis? These are legitimate questions that every University in Africa needs to have readymade answers to. Do you have a reputable, institutional journal? What measures of quality have been put in place to ensure that articles are at the right/ competitive level? Who are the members of your editorial board? How is the packaging of the journal? What is the reach of the journal? Who should be interested in reading the journal and why?

My Experience and Closing Points

I have been privileged to serve as a lead for a resuscitated University Journal i.e., the Unizik Journal of Business, which is published by the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Although this should have been done much sooner, it is nonetheless a case of “better late than never.” In this third volume of the journal, under my leadership, the contributions touch upon salient issues that border on the African discourse – notably the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals touching upon aspects of Education (SDG 4), Healthcare and well being (SDG 3), Youth Development & Entrepreneurship (SDG 8), as well as Agricultural development to tackle SDGs 1 and 2 (poverty and zero hunger) respectively.

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