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Selected initiatives

This page is an attempt to map some of the important initiatives and activities which have emerged in recent years, or have come to our attention through the Nairobi Report, and which are aimed at renewing research in the humanities and social sciences in African universities.

While these have not arisen in response to the Nairobi Report, they are in sympathy with its arguments and its suggestions. It is not a comprehensive list, and we welcome additions (sent to africa@britac.ac.uk and contact@africadesk.ac.uk).

We hope that by attempting to compile these here we will help to give greater visibility to some of the important conversations and responses across the continent, and enable African scholars and peers elsewhere to find out more about work which is underway.

Selected current initiatives in the humanities and social sciences

Updated January 2014

ASAUK writing workshops. These have taken place in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Nairobi, Cambridge and Birmingham, and are planned for Ibadan, Nigeria. Journals involved have included Africa, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Journal of Southern African Studies, African Affairs, Review of African Political Economy, Itupale Online Journal of African Studies, and Journal of Modern African Studies

Partnership for African Social & Governance Research (PASGR). Formally launched in Nairobi, Kenya on February 22, 2010, the initiative aims to address the underlying causes of declining capacity in political and social science research output in sub-Saharan Africa. The intent of the initiative is to support research on aspects of governance and their influence on the design and implementation of social policy. Furthermore, the PASGR initiative will strengthen the provision of higher education so that graduates as well as faculty can contribute effectively to African research and public policy. Consistent with this aim, PASGR is working on the design and development of: a Research Programme, a Collaborative Graduate Programme and a Capacity Building Strategy.

King’s College London's Africa Leadership Centre is establishing a Master’s degree in conflict studies, jointly between Kings and University of Nairobi. It will be a 12 month Master’s embedded as part of 18 month Fellowship which includes attachment to African university.

Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA). Managed by the APHRC and a network of universities, it covers public health and population studies but includes social sciences. Explicit objectives are to develop a critical mass of researchers in a given field, build a network of young researchers, and take a more holistic approach through building in a range of other training, support and institutional strengthening grants into the PhD scholarship.

The African Doctoral Academy. A capacity-building centre for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University, established in 2009. It plans to offer training courses for prospective and current doctoral students in theory, methodology and scholarship. It will also offer certificated courses to academic staff on supervision, the management of post-graduate studies and research management. The first summer school in research methods took place in Jan 2011.

Partnership for Africa's Next Generation of Academics (PANGeA). PANGeA started as a collaborative network amongst the universities of Botswana, Dar es Salaam, Makerere, Malawi and Stellenbosch and in time, PANGeA will expand to strengthen the development of higher education in Africa by creating opportunities for collaborative research and exchange, methodological development, full-time doctoral study and the creation of joint doctoral degree programmes. The first cohort of 31 full-time doctoral students enrolled in 2010.

BIEA Help for Researchers.The British Institute in Eastern Africa has over fifty years of interdisciplinary research experience, BIEA can offer advice on appropriate research techniques as well as on the practicalities of conducting research in Eastern Africa.  

The Network of Excellence for Qualitative Research in the Social Sciences in sub-Saharan Africa (QRM-Net). A network of African, U.S. and European universities mounted a methods training initiative led by IDS Sussex and running from 2009 to 2011, and including the University of Dar es Salaam, Wits, and Ashesi University College in Ghana.

OSSREA Research School for  Social Sciences in East and Southern Africa (RESSESA). OSSREA's 10th congress in March 2011 was on the theme of 'Supporting Universities for PhD Training in East and Southern Africa'. It considered a number of papers as part of discussions around the establishment of a new collaborative doctoral school.

SSRC Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa Programme. In June 2011 the Social Science Research Council (US), with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, announced the first rounds of its doctoral dissertation fellowships in research in the areas of peace, security and development. These aim to 'nurture the intellectual development and increase retention of early-career faculty in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda' by assisting fellows to 'develop research opportunities and skills, obtain doctoral degrees, and participate in robust research communities'.

South African Charter on Humanities and Social Sciences. Concern with a decline in humanities and social sciences research and teaching in SA tertiary institutions, led the Minister for Higher Education and Training to establish a task team in 2010, led by Prof. Ari Sitas at the University of Cape Town, to develop a Charter for Humanities and Social Sciences. The final report on the Charter was released on 4 August 2011. The report made six key recommendations to the Minister:

  • Formation of an Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences; creation of an African Renaissance Programme
  • Formation of a national Centre for Life-long Education and Educational Opportunities
  • Creation of six Catalytic Projects that will animate the field of humanities and social sciences
  • Creation of the Framework and New Formula necessary for the integrity of the fields of study
  • Implementation of 14 Corrective Interventions to overcome the perceived crisis in the current landscape of scholarship.