German Universities and the DFG Support African TWAS-DFG Fellows During the Lockdown

The pandemic has confronted everyone with extraordinary challenges. The German universities hosting TWAS-DFG fellows have been doing a tremendous job during the corona crisis.

Foto: Coronavirus-Pandemie

© AdobeStock

(05.11.20) For 10 years, TWAS (The World Academy of Sciences for the Advancement of Science in Developing Countries) and the DFG have promoted cooperation of up to 50 postdoctoral researchers from sub-Saharan Africa and their hosts at research institutions in Germany.

The core of this programme is a three-month guest stay in Germany for early-career researchers from sub-Saharan Africa.

Since March 2020, the TWAS/DFG programme has faced extraordinary challenges due the pandemic. Plans for guest stays had to be called off at short notice, and researchers who were already staying in Germany had to return to their home countries immediately. For seven researchers, however, it was too late: the airports had closed and they were stuck in Germany.

Countless flights were booked and cancelled for the stranded guests. Numerous COVID-19 tests had to be taken and accommodation arrangements extended. Meanwhile, there was repeated contact with the African embassies in Germany and France: are repatriation flights available? Are there any free seats? How much does the flight cost and how can it be paid for? Government flights to Nigeria, for example, had to be paid for in the local currency in the home country. This posed an enormous challenge for some guest researchers. When they did finally manage to get a flight, they still had to undergo quarantine measures in their African home country in some cases. Four of the guest researchers stranded in Germany came from Nigeria and were separated from their families for up to six months.

The German universities showed enormous commitment in supporting their African guests during this period. They helped them with administrative procedures for visa extensions, COVID-19 tests and accommodation as well as the general arrangements for their research work, of course. After all, although the current focus is on crisis management, the TWAS/DFG programme is mainly dedicated to initiating academic contacts between early-career researchers in sub-Saharan Africa and their hosts in Germany.