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ARUA – UKRI GCRF Partnership Programme

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) have agreed a partnership to address the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to strengthen Africa-UK research collaborations and enhance research capacity across African and UK research communities.

The partnership between UKRI, through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), and ARUA has three main objectives:

  • to build significant capacity for science and research across African universities
  • to provide opportunities for African research teams and GCRF grant-holders to co-create new projects that build on current investments by GCRF and ARUA
  • to build equitable collaborations to strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in both the UK and developing countries

The partnership aligns with key pillars of the GCRF strategy: to promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research for development, and to build equitable collaborations to strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in both the UK and developing countries. It is intended to build coherence across current GCRF investments for greater impact and to develop new partnerships that can help GCRF amplify its reach as well as its effectiveness. It will enable GCRF to work with a pan-African network with the common aim of expanding and enhancing the quality of research carried out in Africa by African researchers. It will also enable the more research-intensive universities in Africa to strengthen not only their capacity and research excellence, but also those of less research-intensive universities. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in August 2018 between ARUA and UKRI.

As part of this partnership, a new research programme was developed with two key strands:

  1. The Capacity Building strand with the ARUA Centres of Excellence (CoEs) aiming to build capacity at the 13 Centres
  2. The Research Excellence strand aiming to support joint research projects addressing aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals.

A GCRF call was developed by UKRI and ARUA under each strand, designed to maximise and accelerate the impact of on-going GCRF and other relevant projects. The following grants have been awarded under this Programme:

Capacity Building grants

These ARUA Centres of Excellence will receive up to £600,000 in GCRF funding over three years:

ARUA Centre of Excellence Centre host university Centre Director and PI
Climate Change University of Cape Town Professor Mark New
To produce the next generation of capable and skilled African scholars and professionals who will confront the status quo and pursuing state-of-the-art solutions to the complex challenges posed by climate change in Africa.
Food Security University of Pretoria Professor Hettie Schönfeld
To train African scholars to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment with the aim to improve both health status and ability to work and earn a sustainable livelihood.
Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology University of the Witwatersrand Professor Lesley Cornish
To reduce the energy divide by networking world leading scientists, system engineers and IT specialists and social scientists to develop materials and new technologies to benefit Africa, in both infrastructure and human development.
Migration and Mobility University of the Witwatersrand Professor Jo Vearey
To support African migration scholars to embrace theory building, engage with migration and social theory, and provide the knowledge politics that is associated with migration research in Africa.
Poverty and inequality University of Cape Town Professor Murray Leibbrandt
The centre will use census, survey and administrative data to profile and map Africa's inequality and poverty and to build the quantity and quality of African researchers working in this area.
Unemployment and skills development University of Lagos Dr Sunday Adebisi
To design and implement programmes that can effectively reduce youth unemployment in Africa and provide basic support to start-ups lead by youths; thus, reducing the numbers of youth unemployed.
Urbanisation and Habitable Cities University of Lagos Professor Timothy Nubi
To develop a network of African researchers capable of addressing the major issues of Africa's urban areas to create more sustainable cities.
Water Rhodes University Professor Carolyn Palmer
To train the next generation of researchers to improve water governance, urban water quality management and reduce the cost of water treatment and reduce contamination-related health risks, the supply and sanitation of water as well as improved efficiencies in irrigated agricultural crop production and improve food security.
Energy Stellenbosch University Prof Johann Görgens
The project sets out to tackle the shortage of African young researchers to tackle the challenges of renewable energy which will benefit African small farmers and the entire food chain from farmer to market.
Good Governance Addis Ababa University Dr Assefa Fiseha
The project aims to bring together the key leaders, political actors, civil society groups, women, members of parliament and other sections of society in each country in the Horn of Africa region (Ethiopia, South Africa, South Sudan, Somalia) to bring peace and stability which has been a major problem in region.
Non-Communicable Diseases University of Nairobi Dr Anne Kamau
The rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa places a huge burden on families leading to increased absenteeism, job loss, unaffordable medical costs, increased responsibilities from family members for caregiving and complete loss of income from death of the breadwinner. The centre aims to achieve a reduction in the four most common NCDs - cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.
Notions of Identity Makerere University Assoc. Professor Sarah Ssali
The project will seek to explore ways to enhance the how researchers research motherhood and fatherhood and will engage with policymakers to implement better family and child friendly policies and interventions.
Post-Conflict Societies Addis Ababa University Dr Mesfin Gebremichael
The project will attempt to understand the dynamics of the blockages of peacebuilding, with a primary focus on factors such as actors, internal and external dynamics, which undermine the implementation of peace deals. It will also examine the factors that hinder the peace process at a local, national and global level. What are these obstacles, where do they come from and how can they be overcome?

Research Excellence grants

These projects will receive up to £2 million in GCRF funding over three years:

ARUA Centre of Excellence University PI
Food Security University of Pretoria Professor Frans Swanepoel
To train researchers who can contribute to improved food security and nutritional status in Africa by developing food systems that are inclusive and economically efficient; whilst protecting the ecosystems in which these systems depend on.
Water Rhodes University Professor Carolyn Palmer
The centre will provide new research in both urban and rural areas to reduce pollution exposure particularly to vulnerable groups like the elderly and children, provide better water resource management that will contribute to better food security and support better livestock production and vegetable and other crop–based agriculture.
Post-conflict societies Addis Ababa University Dr Fana Erda
To research issues related to the experience of living in the urban area in social, economic and political terms and in particular, attention will be paid to migration and conflict issues as well as identifying successful examples of community conflict-prevention and peacebuilding practices within African cities.
Climate & Development University of Cape Town Professor Mark New

The project aims addresses the connection between climate change, livelihoods, poverty and inequality to tackle how climate action can be targeted to improve the livelihoods of Africa's most vulnerable and poor.

Call documents