By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Due to a lack of proper research, Africa is presently a net importer of knowledge, at high costs, from industrialized countries. Justin Ellis, Under-secretary in the ministry of Education, said this at a one-day SADC workshop on research and publication in distance education in the capital. “Africa only contributes 2% of research conducted in the world whereby it is forced to annually pay about N$2 billion to developed countries in fees for copyright,” he said at the opening of the workshop. He expressed his satisfaction with the SADC ministers of education’s recent adoption of a systemic research capacity in the region for the promotion of publications to increase knowledge generation and dissemination. “In essence this means that Southern Africa will now be able to collectively address distance education issues. The existing cooperation in distant teaching in place for decades can now be strengthened. This workshop signifies the hope for a collaborative approach as its development strategy in distance education,” Ellis said, also announcing that the new regional central distance education body has already received nine publishable research papers. He challenged and encouraged the participants to write more research papers and submit them to the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning for publication consideration. “Southern Africa will undoubtedly benefit immensely from focused research activity, especially research on the development and applications of ICTs. Such research activity provides revolutionary technological tools that can assist the region to move out of its current technological black hole,” said Ellis, who encouraged colleges and universities to do more technical research with mobile phones as a tool for distance education to improve the lives of the region’s citizenry. The main thrust of the workshop was the art of preparing articles for publication in academic journals. “Underpinning all aspects of the Southern African programme should be the development of carefully calibrated research to shape academic excellence and refresh teaching, so that institutions of learning reach their full stature. Such collaborative research will be able to influence policy and improve the international understanding of Africa,” Ellis asserted. Participants from Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania attended the workshop that was facilitated by two Unam professors. At the same occasion the director of the Namibia College of Open Learning (Namcol), Frances Ferreira, encouraged closer ties and better collaboration among the region’s distance learning institutions. “Such kind of collaboration will help in understanding the roles of our different institutions. Educational institutions, particularly universities, have a history of being conservative. Relaxing of such conser-vatism can help accelerate our country’s progress towards being fully-fledged knowledge societies,” Ferreira said.