Growing researchers for Africa

03 June 2011

AcademicsAcademics from across the continent joined their UCT counterparts at the writers' workshop at Mont Fleur in February to prepare research contributions for a collection on African Knowledge. (From left back) Prof Astrid Jarre (MA-RE, UCT), Dr Lesley Green (Social Anthropology, UCT), Yonina-Hoffman-Wanderer (Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit, UCT), Assoc Prof Lilly Artz (Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit, UCT), Warren Smit (African Centre for Cities, UCT), Dr Barbara Paterson (MAR-E, UCT), Prof Maria Stuttaford (University of Warwick), Selvan Naidoo (African Centre for Cities, UCT), Prof Afe Adogame (University of Edinburgh/Nigeria), Assoc Prof Linda Cooper (CHED, UCT). (Middle) Prof Crain Soudien (DVC), Prof Akosua Ampofo (University of Ghana), Prof Edwin Blake (Computer Science, UCT), Prof Leslie London (Public Health, UCT), Prof Mbugua wa-Mungai (Kenyatta University), Dr Leadus Madzima (Zimbabwe), Prof Brenda Cooper (PERC, UCT), Dr Lucia Thesen (CHED, UCT). (Front) Prof Robert Morrell (PERC, UCT) and Dr Charles Masango (Research Office, UCT).

Emerging Researcher Programme

The Emerging Researcher Programme (ERP) is for academics from entry to Associate Professor level who have not yet achieved a NRF rating and need to develop an research and publishing profile. The programme harnesses the expertise of retired and active professors who offer individual and group mentoring, seminars and workshops on a range of topics from how to publish an article to how to plan a research career. The ERP also offers grants twice a year to support research activities. To date 462 academics have benefitted from the programme and about

R3 million of grants are disbursed each year. Academics from other African countries form about 12% of the ERP participants and about one quarter of the grant recipients.

Developing the Next Generation of Academics

A new programme called Developing the Next Generation of Academics aims to develop a cohort of trainee academics which will constitute a competitive pool of candidates for appointment to academic positions, not only at UCT, but also elsewhere in Africa. The programme is for women and black people in the fields of infectious diseases, civil engineering, and economics. Postgraduate training hubs will be developed in each of the selected areas, with 38 doctoral bursaries and seven postdoctoral fellowships provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Tailor-made training models in each of the selected areas will provide exposure to academic life, over and above graduate studies, with the purpose of attracting bursary recipients to academic careers.

The Programme for the Enhancement of Research Capacity

The Programme for the Enhancement of Research Capacity (PERC), which is driven by Professor Robert Morrell in the Research Office, promotes Afropolitan research at UCT. Its goal is to encourage critical research on Africa and to promote and strengthen collaborative research networks on the continent.

The African Research Project on Knowledge Production encourages cross-disciplinary research that interrogates dominant, Eurocentric knowledge paradigms. A Carnegie Corporation grant totalling R1.8 million has funded 10 projects. These include:

  • Assoc Prof Lillian Artz (Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences), Women's Pathways to Crime: Developing a critical South African criminology,.
  • Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (School of Psychology), Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Empathy, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in South Africa and Rwanda in the Aftermath of Mass Violence and Genocide - A comparative study.
  • Prof. Astrid Jarre (Marine Research Institute, Faculty of Science), Fishers Knowledge for Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management.
  • Prof Leslie London (School of Public Health and Family Medicine), A Learning Network for the Right to Health: An opportunity for civil society and academic collaboration to contextualise human rights within an African perspective.
  • Dr Justin O'Riain (Baboon Research Unit), Pioneering Sustainable Solutions to Human-Haboon Conflict in the Cape Peninsula: Local answers for a continental problem.
  • Assoc Prof Ulrike Rivett (School of Civil Engineering), Information Technology at the Margins: Methodological tools for understanding, designing and developing context-appropriate digital systems in the global South.
  • Dr Tom Sanya (School of Architecture and Planning), Design and Making Epistemology: In search of an Afrocentric perspective via the African informal settlement.
  • Warren Smit (African Centre for Cities), Challenging Dominant Theories of Urban Health: Proposal for the first phase of a research programme on the relationship between the urban environment and health in Cape Town.
  • Dr Lucia Thesen and Assoc Prof Linda Cooper (Centre for Higher Education and Development), The Postgraduate Condition: Writing, risk and the making of new knowledge.

Morrell believes the programme has been very successful in generating fresh interest in African research and collaboration.

"Without the PERC it is difficult to see how the interdisciplinary research teams would come together, let alone get funding. The programme therefore is a catalyst for fresh research, new ideas and collaboration, both within the university and into Africa."

A collection of research contributions on Africa Knowledge tentatively titled Pursuing and Making Africa-Centred Knowledge: Theories and cases is being prepared by Professor Brenda Cooper (formerly of the Centre of African Studies) and Prof Morrell. Apart from contributions by the funded projects described above, it includes participation from scholars in the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Contributors attended a writers' workshop at Mont Fleur in February 2011.

PERC's Afropolitan work is being fostered by Dr Lesley Green of the Department of Social Anthropology. Green is an associate of PERC as well as co-ordinator of the Sawyer Seminar Series. Working with scholars in the global South (Africa and South America), Green has placed her focus on Contested Ecologies. In 2010 the Sawyer Seminar/PERC Database was launched. This is a bibliographical database to identify scholarship in the global South that "does not turn up at the top of the page in conventional search engines". It supports the development of alternative perspectives and contestations over knowledges.

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