This book takes an innovative approach to understanding higher education and capacity building in Africa; inspired by ideas about the ‘geography of scientific knowledge’ (Livingstone, 2003; Meusburger, 2015a; Meusburger et al., 2010), it addresses capacity building of African universities. While education has been high on the development agenda for years, universities have been recognised only recently as key drivers for societal growth in the Global South. Capacity building of the African higher education sector is now widely included in donor policies in the Global North. The question is how capacity-building projects of universities in Africa affect their knowledge production. Universities and the scientific knowledges they hold are often seen to have ubiquitous qualities; therefore, capacity building may appear straightforward. However, the type of institutions and knowledges promoted worldwide are the outcome of development in learned institutions in Western Europe and North America over the past 200–300 years. From a universalistic perspective, the promotion of higher education is seen as a key to modernising Africa, whereas from a post-colonial perspective, the promotion of higher education is perceived as just another imperialist approach to Africa. In this book, we have another starting point as we want to explore what role specific places and relationships have in research, and analyse how cultural experiences are included and excluded in teaching and research. Thus, the different chapters show how what constitutes legitimate scientific knowledge is negotiated and contested at African universities. In doing so, we draw on discussions about the hegemony of Western thought in education and knowledge production. Methodologically, the chapters in the book adopt a reflexive approach, using the authors’ own experiences with higher education capacity building and knowledge production, through which we aim to contribute to the reflexive turn and rise of auto-ethnography (e.g. Archer, 2010; Foley, 2002; Venkatesh, 2013). Our objectives are twofold:

to analyse how different places and cultural contexts influence and transform knowledges in African higher education;

to explore – through a reflexive approach – how capacity building affects scientific knowledge production in African universities.