ARUA Centre of Excellence in Water launches at Rhodes University


The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Water officially launched at Rhodes University on 27 May, with Director of the Institute for Water Research (IWR), Professor Tally Palmer, at the helm.

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela; Secretary General of ARUA, Professor Ernest Aryeetey; Director of the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Water, Prof Tally Palmer; and Co-Director, Dr Jane Tanner of Rhodes University, were all in attendance. Co-Director Prof Zerihun Woldu of the University of Addis Ababa was represented by his colleague Dr Tena Agumussie.

Rhodes University is one of the founder members of ARUA. From its inception meeting in March 2015 at the African Higher Education Summit in Dakar, Senegal, Rhodes University has been fully committed to ARUA. “This Alliance opens opportunities for researchers at Rhodes University to build upon existing collaborations on the continent, and forge new ones. As a research intensive university, we are glad to be part of the ARUA objectives to raise the scholarly voices of Africa and bring together critical mass from across the continent behind research themes,” Dr Mabizela said.

ARUA is a collaborative project which aims to address several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It brings together over 15 of the region’s leading universities and is a network of universities from different countries with different historical backgrounds, but with a common vision.

“The Vice-Chancellors of our member universities made the very wise choice of appointing Professor Aryeetey, who just happened to be retiring as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana at the time ARUA was formed, as the inaugural Secretary General. He has more than achieved what we imagined was possible in the first four years, and has put his very substantial international network to work in making the potential of ARUA known amongst funders and university networks, to the extent that ARUA is already an international name, and is drawing attention from established Institutional Research Groupings like the N8 and the Russell Groups,” Dr Mabizela explained.   

ARUA and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) joined forces in October 2018 to build Pan Africa-UK research collaborations across all disciplines to mobilise excellence and forge equitable partnerships with co-creation at the heart.

“The ARUA uses Centres of Excellence as the main instrument for research and graduate training collaboration among its members. Funding these innovative Centres is challenging, so the UKRI support means everything to ARUA and its member universities. It is structured to allow ARUA to provide more than just core support to the 13 Centres of Excellence located at nine universities. The Global Challenges Research Fund will provide six grants of up to £2 million each for research in partnership between ARUA and UK Universities.

These grants will allow ARUA universities to play key roles in global research leadership. ARUA expects to draw lessons from the Centres of Excellence for its other research and teaching programmes in its bid to make African universities globally competitive. This partnership marks a new high in the support for African Higher Education,” said Prof Aryeetey.

Rhodes University has a long history of research in the area of water, spanning a range of disciplines.  The IWR, which will act as the administrative hosting entity of the ARUA centre, has a long track record of Hydrological Research, Limnological Research, Water Quality Research, and an Interdisciplinary approach that is necessary when working with the social and environmental issues that go along with researching the management of a critical scarce resource. The IWR has contributed to the South Africa’s National Water Act, to capacity development on the continent through the Carnegie RISE programme, and recently to locating ground water resources in our own city to address a devastating drought. 

“The research into water related issues goes much broader than the IWR at Rhodes University, and encompasses Marine Biology, Environmental Science, Environmental Education, Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity, the Centre for Biological Control, the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Institute for Environmental Biotechnology, the Biotechnology Innovation Centre, the Nanotechnology Innovation Institute, the Rhodes Business School, and several other areas of the University,” said Dr Mabizela.

The ARUA Centre workshop welcomed Addis Ababa University from Ethiopia; University of Lagos from Nigeria; University of Rwanda from Kigali; University of Cape Town from South Africa; Cheikh Anta Diop University from Senegal; University of Dar es Salaam from Tanzania, and; Makerere University from Uganda.

“We look forward to sharing with you the expertise and facilities that we are privileged to have at this University, and we equally look forward to benefitting from your facilities and learning from your expertise.  Most of all, we look forward to working together to improve water resource use on our continent.  Sitting squarely as it does across several of the SDGs, with Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6) as a primary theme, this Centre is poised to bring together the top expertise of the continent, and make a huge difference to the way we use this life-critical and scarce resource. Your work is vital to our future,” concluded Dr Mabizela.