The University of Nairobi’s Institute for Development Studies (IDS) through its lead researcher, Prof.Karuti Kanyinga, are among the five winners of  $500K in philanthropic funding support by the Carnegie Foundation for each collaboration focused on emerging trans-regional trends in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

Carnegie Corporation of New York announced the results of a competitive grants program, awarding $500,000 each to five research initiatives focused on economic, social, technological, and governance phenomena cutting across Africa, the Middle East, and other regions.

The Collaborating institutions and their lead researchers are:

University of Nairobi Institute for Development Studies, Nairobi, Kenya; Economic Research Forum Cairo, Egypt; University of Birmingham Department of Political Science and International Studies, Birmingham, England; University of Ghana Institute of African Studies, Accra, Ghana; University of the Witwatersrand Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg, South Africa. 

The $2.5 million will address critical challenges through international social science collaborations

The funding stems from a request for proposals issued last year to 20 universities and think tanks with the goal of revealing and rethinking trends and stimulating innovative intellectual responses to the unfolding global transformations. Each scholarly collaboration seeks to generate theories, problem-solving, policy development, and historical analysis on trans-regional challenges.

The topics emphasize emerging trends that are reshaping today’s societies, including challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, such as job loss, international trade, and access to government services. Each submission underwent rigorous external and internal reviews, resulting in five grants.

“Most of today’s issues are not confined to one place, and neither is scholarship,” said the Corporation’s Hillary Wiesner, program director for Transnational Movements and the Arab Region. “Moreover, traditional assumptions about regions are contested today: Are regions really separate or different, and how were they defined? This approach was among the factors that reviewers weighed in assessing 20 impressive proposals, each one demonstrating remarkable potential for impact. The five winners will address pressing issues, providing knowledge, theory, and analysis to support informed policy decisions while building vital connections for the future.”

A lead researcher will oversee the two-year grants at each of the following institutions:

University of Nairobi Institute for Development Studies, Nairobi, Kenya | Led by social scientist Karuti Kanyinga, the project will look at the roles of citizenship, political participation, and the decentralization of governance in North and sub-Saharan Africa.

Karuti Kanyinga: “This grant will enable scholars from North and sub-Saharan Africa to share experiences on the decentralization of governance with the goal of understanding incentives that political elites require to effectively deliver public goods to populations facing inequalities.”

Economic Research Forum Cairo, Egypt | Led by Sherine Ghoneim, the think tank will connect an array of scholars and institutions to produce original research on private sector development, corruption, and rapid technological change in transitioning countries.

Sherine Ghoneim: “Our goal is to enhance our understanding of how cronyism and disruptive technologies each affect competition, innovation, productivity, financial markets, and macroeconomic policies. Our evidence-based policy research on MENA and sub-Saharan Africa will build stronger inter-regional links and research collaborations.”

University of Birmingham Department of Political Science and International Studies, Birmingham, England | Led by political scientist May Darwich, the research will focus on seaport infrastructures around transport corridors in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden — sites of geopolitical competition and growing investment from the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

May Darwich: “The project seeks to advance knowledge of infrastructural investments across regions and how they shape political dynamics. In particular, it will examine how rivalries in the Middle East can be transmitted to a neighboring region, the Horn of Africa, affecting the everyday lives of people in East Africa.”

University of Ghana Institute of African Studies, Accra, Ghana | Led by development sociologist Dzodzi Tsikata, the project will advance knowledge about the changing culture of work and the increasing prevalence of insecure employment by examining differences in the experiences of men and women in rural and urban Ghana, Kenya, and Egypt.

Dzodzi Tsikata: “We hope to deepen the scholarly research on precarious work in Africa’s different regions and contribute to the expertise on this critical global issue, one that has become even more urgent in the context of the pandemic.”

 University of the Witwatersrand Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg, South Africa | Led by political theorist Achille Mbembe, the collaboration will look at how regions have been conceived and created, and whether they are defined by past empires seeking access to colonies and natural resources or by the connections, ideas, and mobility of inhabitants today.

Achille Mbembe: “The research will examine new pathways of regionalization that arise from climate change, the intensification of mobility, the accelerated extraction of natural resources as well as changes in the causes and expressions of health and illness in three African sub-regions: the Sahel-Sahara-Mediterranean corridor, the Congo Basin, and the Southern Atlantic-Indian Ocean.”                    

Activities include strengthening the academic knowledge base in the regions involved with the projects, convening international workshops, and producing scholarly content as well as news articles, podcasts, and media collaborations.

In 2017, through a previous request for proposals, Carnegie Corporation of New York provided $4.15 million in support for research applying social science to policy development. Eight university-based partnerships in the Arab region were awarded grants.