University of Bristol: Africa researchers team up with Bristol in innovative new partnership

Out of more than 50 applications submitted to Bristol’s Perivoli Africa Research Centre (PARC) Partnerships Fund, Professors Jacques Joubert, Abraham Geremew, James Ogude and Bolelang Pheko were selected by the funding panel, chaired by Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Phil Taylor and comprising both Bristol and Africa-based academics. Each awardee will lead a collaborative project with researchers from the University.

Building on ‘equitable partnerships’ advances made in the UK research sector, this funding – provided by Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) – specifically aims to help embed a mode of partnerships that goes further in redressing the multiple layers of power imbalances often found in global North-Africa research.

Prof Jacques Joubert of the University of Western Cape, South Africa and his team are designing neuro-pharmaceuticals to permeate the blood-brain barrier and combat neurological disorders.

The number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurological disorders in South Africa has increased by over 30% since the 1990’s. Recently the group identified a molecule, known as EBPD, that is able to reduce harmful oxidants and decrease the formation of protein deposits in the brain that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s.

Prof Joubert said: “In order to innovate, you must collaborate. Success can be reached by collaborating on innovative ideas and by helping others to succeed. Through the PARC Partnership Fund award, we will strive to build on new Africa-led and centred research collaboration modes.

“We look forward to this partnership further driving research and product development for neurodegenerative diseases.”

Prof Bolelang Pheko of the University of Botswana is developing an indigenous model of crisis-sensitive educational leadership in Botswana. She was driven by the gap in knowledge of school-level priorities and responses since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This study aims to address these disparities through fieldwork in four sites from two educational regions using an indigenous research methods approach.

She said: “I am grateful and thankful for this award because it came at the right time.

“This award will afford me ‘a person from the South’ to tell my story from the South context.”

Abraham Geremew of Haramaya University, Ethiopia, caught the judging panel’s eye for his work assessing climate resilience of multi-village water supplies in Ethiopia. Climate change threatens the drinking water supply of millions of people in rural Ethiopia, where less than 10% of the population has access to water that is free from contamination.

To address the risks posed by current and future climate patterns, the Government of Ethiopia is building multi-village, piped-water supplies managed by professionalised rural utilities, informed by Geremew and his team’s research.

He said: “This collaborative research work on measuring the government’s responses to the threats of climate change to water supplies is a big opportunity for us to better understand the applicability of the developed framework for its future use at the national level.”

James Ogude of the University of Pretoria has been allocated PARC funds for his project Sounding East Africa: Music, Technology and Ideology. It sets out to understand the role played by music in mobilising the anti-colonial movement in Kenya and Tanzania, and how it became an important medium through which identities for the newly independent nations were created and disseminated.

He said: “The award is a remarkable North-Africa research initiative and a celebration of culture as an important site of knowledge production in Africa. The University of Pretoria is proud to be part of this Bristol University initiative.

“This award is significant because it not only creates the opportunities to collaborate transnationally and regionally, but also because it offers an excellent platform for mentoring young and early career scholars.”

Isabella Aboderin, Director of PARC, added: “The PARC Partnerships Fund is an important element of PARC’s work to champion transformation in Africa research and partnerships. We are thrilled that the call found such resonance, and that we were able to select such an exciting set of Africa-led projects across a range of disciplines and subject areas. The projects will not only generate knowledge that speaks to African priorities. By putting a transformed mode of partnership working into practice they will also generate learning and insights to inform PARC’s work going forward.”

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