In May 2023, the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research (ACEIR) – hosted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) on behalf of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) – marked its fifth year since it was established as one of ARUA’s interdisciplinary research centres of excellence in 13 priority thematic areas that align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
In June 2023, it was announced that UCT will co-lead a Cluster of Research Excellence in Inequalities, Poverty and Deprivation (CoRE IPD). This is one of the 17 research clusters launched by ARUA and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities (The Guild) to pioneer a new approach to equitable collaboration and capacity building.
The CoRE IPD will be co-led by ACEIR’s director, Professor Murray Leibbrandt, from the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), with Professor Robert Lensink and the University of Groningen (Netherlands) as The Guild’s co-lead university.
ACEIR’s Ghana partner at the University of Ghana (node led by Professor Robert D Osei from the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research) and at the University of Nairobi (Professor Damiano K Manda, Department of Economics and Development Studies) are the other ARUA members of CoRE IPD.
The other The Guild universities core partners in CoRE IPD are Aarhus University in Denmark (Professor Daniele Nosenzo and Dr Hanna Fromell) and the University of Gottingen, Germany (Professor Sebastian Vollmer).
Coming from a strong base
UCT’s legacy in poverty and inequality research has a strong foundation in SALDRU’s history that spans almost half a century.
“SALDRU’s founder, the late Professor Francis Wilson, always spoke of making the link between producing quality research as a bedrock for driving processes of evidence-informed policymaking,” explained Professor Leibbrandt.
UCT research initiatives led by SALDRU that followed this approach include UCT’s Poverty & Inequality Initiative at a local level; the Mandela Initiative at a national level; and ACEIR at a pan-African level.
The CoRE IPD is the perfect platform as it brings worldclass expertise from European Union partners to augment what the ACEIR is doing, said Leibbrandt.
“As a partnership, this cluster of research excellence will grow indigenous African research capacity.”
“As a partnership, this cluster of research excellence will grow indigenous African research capacity with a work programme that includes the multidimensional inequalities that are confronted in several of the SDGs and that intersect in perpetuating inequality and poverty.
“The key scientific challenge that this cluster will address is how to reduce inequality so that it reduces poverty and deprivation in Africa. The continent has the largest interregional differences in inequality in the world, with southern African countries among the most unequal globally. This challenge is a common thread running through almost all the SDGs.”
UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation Professor Sue Harrison said: “ACEIR has done well in its first five years to establish across its three nodes the strongest pan-African research group working on inequality and poverty.”
She continued: “UCT’s role in the Cluster of Research Excellence in Inequalities, Poverty and Deprivation is aligned with our research and capacity-building agenda, bringing to the partnership among the very strongest researchers and research areas that UCT has to contribute.”
Unprecedented research and capacity building
Leibbrandt said that the cluster differs fundamentally from conventional research cooperations.
“The mutual commitments to long-term cooperation provide opportunities for a longitudinal approach to building research and teaching capacities off the base of contemporary networks and bilateral partnerships.”
The six universities that constitute the CoRE IPD have all pledged to leveraging institutional excellence into a coordinated programme of research, graduate training, and broader capacity building that will create a programme at a scale that does not yet exist.
“The cluster will consolidate the excellent research, training, and capacity building of the partner universities by designing and implementing impactful and innovative joint research programmes and associated capacity building activities.
“We’ll be developing joint master and PhD degrees; a joint doctoral programme; and training programmes for policymakers, civil society, and business enterprises.
“Research staff will receive training and mentoring to enhance disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge.”
“And research staff will receive training and mentoring to enhance disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge to deliver an inclusive, multidimensional analyses of deprivation and poverty, which addresses various inequalities.”
The CoRE IPD has identified six interdisciplinary themes to direct its focus:
Within each theme, specific attention will be given to understanding the situations of women and youth and the possibilities for their sustainable futures.
As in-country and between-country inequalities are one of the biggest challenges of our time, the different theme experts plan to work closely together to achieve the transdisciplinary approach that is needed to realise SDG 10.
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