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Interview with Director West African Research Centre

Started by Nuruddeen, June 19, 2006, 10:43:31 PM

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(Dakar, Senegal. May 18th, 2006. 6 p.m)


Jibo Nura,


Abdoulaye Niang is right honourable gentleman who pursues his own cause with personal temerity and grandiose style. Due to his belief in academic versatility, the lanky but energetic Senegalese man is a Librarian, an Accountant and also a Computer Scientist by training. He has held various strategic, technical and administrative positions in Dakar. Presently, he is one of the Directors of West African Research Centre (WARC) in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

In this exclusive encounter with Jibo Nura, a Nigerian National Newspaper columnist,   Abdoulaye bared his mind about Senegal, the activities in West African Research Centre and the problem facing Africa today. Enjoy reading.

Question: Sir, could you tell us your name and brief biography?
Answer: My name is Abdoulaye Niang and I am the Administrative and Technical Director. I am not only in- charge of the administrative and technical aspects but also financial, because I did Computer Science as a study. I did also Library Science and Accounting. So by training I did all these courses but I started working with West African Research Centre as a Librarian and after that now I am in- charge of the financial and administrative staff.

Question: Sir, tell us a brief history of Senegal.
Answer: Actually, it will be very difficult to explain Senegal in few words. But, let me tell you that Senegal is a country of Teranga. And Teranga means hospitality. And we had ex-Presidents such as Louis Faidherbe, Senghor, Jihad Abdou Diouf and now Abdoulaye Wade. All these people were working or are working for peace. And it's just something that explains the specificity of Teranga. After all, hospitality cannot be obtained without peace.

Question: (cuts in) In essence, what you are saying is Senegalese people are hospitable, loving and caring?
Answer:  Exactly yes! That is the first name of Senegalese people. However, you can find bad and good people everywhere but in general, hospitality is one of the things that one will identify Senegalese people with.

Question: Sir, you are currently the Director Administration and Technical, West African Research Centre. When was the centre established and what do you achieve in terms of developmental research?
Answer: The centre was formally established in 1992. I mean for the people but practically it started real activities in 1994. And we started in Downtown. It was created by a few people from the University Cheikh Anta Diop and some few scholars from the United States. But, originally it was first formed by a Professor called Cheikh Hamidou Muhammadou Mustapha Khan. Muhammadou Mustapha Khan initially had the idea to create a centre that would be the link of different researches from different countries but with more emphasis in West Africa first and then regional Africa and America. So the centre has the aim to be the link for exchanges between West African scholars and   American researchers. And this link is just to   have activities that cover West Africa. We are trying to show the rest of the world that West Africa has rich and famous people from the universities who are brilliant and intelligent. And it's just something to show to Europe, America and other parts of the world that there are intellectuals in Africa that can do what American people are doing.

Question: What kind of research do you do at the centre?Answer: We are not focusing on one subject or two subjects. Everybody can come and do every kind of research. Any professional can be a member of the centre. Therefore the centre embraces and welcomes all researches, and it provides links between them in order to impose and have good results for publication. So we don't discriminate.

Question: Sir, as somebody with professional expertise in research, could you shed more light on the major responsibilities of your office?

Answer: We have many responsibilities. First, we help researchers to do their own research in Senegal and in West Africa but preferably in Senegal. People from West Africa or America if they come here in order to attend conferences, meet people or to obtain data for their research, we provide the link by guiding and showing them the right place. Scholars in the centre can help you get what you want because the centre is meant for research. But one needs to first look for a research clearance, for instance, a kind of permission from the Ministry to do research in Senegal. It therefore helps visitors to secure that permission and to carry out their research in Senegal. We also give space to people once they are members or affiliated to the centre. They can have access to offices, space; there is internet connections, computer lab etc for the research.

Question: Do you have problems that are presently facing the centre, for instance, financial, material or human resource etcetera?Answer: Our main problem is fund. You know sometimes it's good and easy to have your people doing contacts and eventually you sort out the problem of funding. For example, if you can organize fund raising meetings, then you get almost all your problems solved. But of course, we need money. And the only money we need is to increase our materials like computers, giving grants for researchers who want to go abroad. You can visit our website and you notice that each year we provide grants. We also need money to increase or facilitate our services and all the conditions related to the space. In fact, we need to increase the number of people that receive the grants from the centre.

Question: Is the Senegalese Government funding your activities or do you have somebody that provides financial support for the centre?Answer: Not yet. Senegal government is for the time being out. Our main source is from the Department of Education, United States. They send money for us to fund our activities.

Question: Sir, in Nigeria we have similar research centres such as the Centre for Documentation and Research, Arewa House, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, which is responsible for making research in African and world history. The Centre also conducts researches in leadership and governance. Do you care to collaborate with these kinds of centres and see if you can exonerate Africa from its present situation, especially now that the continent is the least of all the seven continents in terms of leadership and development?
Answer: You know our aim is to be well located in West Africa and also our aim is to have several centres in West Africa. However, we intend to have this kind of research centre in Abidjan, in Ghana and Nigeria because these are the three countries in which we have more members. This means that we should have the main centre that will coordinate all of their activities. Our interest therefore, is to collaborate with different institutions in Senegal, in America and in West Africa.

Question: (cuts in). Could you mention some of them?Answer: I am not sure that the name of the centre you gave me is among the one that we know. But may be in the future we can collaborate and coordinate in order to work together for the development of Africa. Because research means development. What we should have and what we should do in my opinion is to facilitate and to give more opportunity to people to do research in order to get it published. I totally disagree with the fact that African countries will continue to depend and have money from outside, from abroad?

Question: (cuts in). Yes sir. I quite agree with your own view. Africa as we can see from not a very far distance is a very rich continent but still remains the most backward. What went wrong?Answer: With Africa?

Question :( cuts in) Yes!Answer: I am not a specialist. I read Arithmetic sciences but my idea is, sometimes African leaders are not working for African people. So there is need for them to put the interest of an African man in their hearts.

Question: Thank you very much sir.Answer: You are welcome.
o try and fail is atleast to learn. That will save one the inestimable loss of what might have been (positive or negative).