Rhodes University among leading African Universities announced for new UK research consortium

Participants at the ARUA Water CoE foundation course, funded by UKRI:GCRF capability grant: Addressing Complex Water and Land Problems: Applying the Adaptive Systemic Approach, at the University of Addis Ababa, Land and Water Resources Centre.
Participants at the ARUA Water CoE foundation course, funded by UKRI:GCRF capability grant: Addressing Complex Water and Land Problems: Applying the Adaptive Systemic Approach, at the University of Addis Ababa, Land and Water Resources Centre.

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced the outcomes of its African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) partnership research programme to tackle global challenges such as disease, poverty, climate change, fragile states and food insecurity. This research programme is a key part of UKRI’s three-year partnership with ARUA, developed through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), to strengthen pan Africa-UK collaborations across all disciplines, mobilise excellence and build robust research ecosystems across Africa.

UKRI works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities and governments to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. ARUA is a network of universities from different countries and different historical backgrounds, but with a shared vision. It aims to enhance research and graduate training in member universities through several channels, including the setting up of Centres of Excellence to be hosted by member universities. The ARUA-UKRI research programme has two strands: Capacity building to support the 13 ARUA Centres of Excellence, and Research Excellence to support four multidisciplinary and multinational projects addressing the UN’s SDGs; the latter is the one that has been just announced.

The Institute for Water Research at Rhodes University is one of the four cross-cutting Excellence award winners. Professor Carolyn Palmer is leading the project titled “Unlocking resilient benefits from African water resources” (more information at https://www.ru.ac.za/iwr/aruacoe/). The awards for the Centres of Excellence will enable the awarded Centres of Excellence to develop into expert hubs where leading researchers, alongside a new generation of researchers, collaborate and undertake world-class research across priority themes including energy, water conservation, urbanisation and food security. The four joint research excellence projects will help forge new relationships and synergies between the ARUA Centres of Excellence and UK-based GCRF researchers. They together will build on existing activities to develop new proposals and projects aligned to the SDGs. Both aspects of the research programme will help strengthen and expand Africa’s crucial research base.

Rhodes University’s Director for Institute for Water Research, Professor Carolyn Palmer said the Institute was thrilled to be part of the international research consortium. “Water is fundamental to thriving human life and society, and people are inextricably part of the natural environment. But with growing demands on water across Africa, and increasing constraints on supply, there is an urgent need for new research, methodologies and practices to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and realise the Africa Water Vision 2025” she said.

The research will see a collaboration that will bring together researchers from South Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and the UK, to form an African water research cohort, addressing water-related SDGs, with community engagement to catalyse change.

UKRI’s International Champion, Professor Andrew Thompson said: “To sustainably address global challenges, we need a genuine global response and that means forging stronger partnerships that are fair, equitable and fully reciprocal between researchers in the northern and southern hemispheres. This exciting research programme with ARUA is supporting research that transcends national boundaries and will produce different ways of thinking about challenges and different solutions to tackling them.”

ARUA Secretary-General, Professor Ernest Aryeetey said: “I would love to see a world where discussions about global health are influenced by work done in Africa, where discussions about climate change are influenced by African researchers and where African governments and the international academic community listen to African researchers. ARUA’s partnership with UKRI is an important stepping stone to realising this vision.”


The 13 ARUA Centres of Excellence being supported through capacity building grants are:

Climate Change – University of Cape Town, South Africa

Energy – Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Food Security – University of Pretoria, South Africa

Good Governance – Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology – University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Migration and Mobility, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Non-Communicable Diseases – University of Nairobi, Kenya

Notions of Identity – Makerere University, Uganda

Post-Conflict Society - Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Poverty and Inequality - Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Unemployment and Skills Development – University of Lagos, Nigeria

Urbanisation and Habitable Cities – University of Lagos, Nigeria

Water – Rhodes University, South Africa