Selection process of Afrique One-ASPIRE fellows: ‘It was a difficult task but it was conducted on a fair basis’, stated Dr Sayoki Mfinanga, Deputy Director of Afrique One-ASPIRE

9 February 2017

At the end of the selection meeting of the future Afrique One-ASPIRE fellows, which was held from the 31st January to the 2nd February at the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS) in Abidjan, Dr Mfinanga describes the selection process and introduces the next steps for the consortium.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: The selection meeting for the next Afrique One-ASPIRE fellows has finished. What are your comments about the selection process?

Dr Sayoki Mfinanga: It was not very easy and involved a lot of discussion and focus. We used Skype to call our colleagues linked to the different research themes, for instance at the University of Glasgow for the rabies and Brucellosis TTP, thematic training programme and colleagues in Tanzania at the Ifakara Health Institute where we had to talk to Dr Godfrey Mbaruku, one of the Rabies TTP lead. This technology also helped us to connect with the candidates and to ask questions within a participatory process. It was a difficult task but it was conducted on a fair basis.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: What do you think about the profiles of the candidates? Have you been satisfied with the numbers of applications?

Dr Sayoki Mfinanga: We received a lot of applications and the selection process started by reviewing by the different principal investigators (PI’s) within their thematic areas to evaluate and shortlist the candidates. According to the scores obtained, we shortlisted three candidates for each position. We intended to interview all of them; however, we could not get hold of some of them and had to rely on their documents and on some PI’s that know the candidate. That’s why I feel it was a fair process.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: The selection is over. What will be the next challenges for Afrique One-ASPIRE?

Dr Sayoki Mfinanga: We have finished the selection. There are still a few positions that need to be filled because we could not connect to all the candidates. We have planned to finish those and then to give feedback to the candidates. We advise them to register at a university and to find a supervisor. For registration, we recommend a university within Africa, preferably within the Afrique One-ASPIRE network in, for instance, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Senegal and Chad. They must also find suitable supervisors at their universities. However, we have a list of more than 40 supervisors from the consortium of which they can choose from.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: What message would you like to deliver to the Afrique One-ASPIRE fellows?

Dr Sayoki Mfinanga: Afrique One-ASPIRE is a unique programme in Africa. We started it because we realized that there is a gap when it comes to postdoctoral positions in Africa. We have organized ourselves in such a way to train our scientists, our lecturers and so on. It is not a simple job we have started and we expect that these candidates (postdocs, PhD and Master students) will grow scientifically and take over our positions in the future. It is a career development, a succession plan. They should know that hard work lies in front of them and that they must maintain this momentum.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: Could we tell that the consortium has a very strong experience in the training field?

Dr Sayoki Mfinanga: Exactly, we learned it in the first phase and we have improved it. It’s a large virtual training network. One could say a virtual institution that is engaged in training people. We don’t want people to be located in their own country. That’s why we foster exchange between west and east African countries. We need more interaction to remove language and geographical barriers to reflect that within the Afrique One research consortium there is only one Africa. From the lessons, we learned in the first phase, we developed our name to become Afrique One-ASPIRE.

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