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IAD/SAIPAR Summer 2019 Conference




IAD and SAIPAR Summer Africa Conference, 2019 and Early Career Research workshop


Africa’s Grand Challenges: The Role of Research and Education Systems

August 5-7, 2019 

Livingstone, Zambia


Keynote Speakers:

Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa

Advisor, Independent Evaluation Office, IMF; Visiting Scholar, New York University; Visiting Fellow, Cornell University; Former Acting Chief Economist, African Development Bank


Morten Jerven

Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Visiting Professor in Economic History at Lund University


On November 8-9, 2018, Cornell University hosted a Global Grand Challenges Symposium, during which participants and panelists “laid out some of the most pressing issues of our times, as well as possible paths to solutions.”[1] In expounding on what she termed the “war on facts”, Rachel Dunifon, interim dean of the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, identified “three steps that can contribute to the “defense of facts:” greater engagement in policymaking; improved communication of research; and giving researchers “time, funds and knowledge to collaborate with policymakers and practitioners.”[2] In the African context, the factual vacuum and the information and power asymmetries that exist as a result, make these challenges even more pernicious. Jerven pointed this out in his book Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It (Cornell, 2013).

Several “grand challenges” exist on the continent.  Climate change and food insecurity, migration and its complexities, inequality, access to justice, and trade asymmetries are some. Tackling these challenges involves getting the right information at the right time and in the right way. Indeed, accurate and adequate information necessarily precedes policy making and solution seeking. This conference interrogates the state of information seeking on the continent in the context of the grand challenges debate. The increasingly complex challenges of our time require relevant and robust information seeking methodologies and techniques. Where is the continent in this regard? How can the facts be obtained, shared and defended?

Scholars, academics, researchers, writers and practitioners will meet in Livingstone, Zambia from 6-7 August 2019 to discuss these issues. The first day is primarily for academics to discuss the global challenges themes, the second day is reserved for presentations of emerging scholars. This early-career research day provides the opportunity for a small group of early career academics to receive feedback and mentoring on research and publishing in their respective fields.  The goal of this workshop is to strengthen research capacity among early-career African scholars.


Sub-themes include:

Climate Change and Food Security - knowledge gaps and asymmetries related to climate change and food security in the African context, particularly but not limited to, changing rain-fall patterns and the diminishing quality and quantity of water bodies. 

Migration - Migration is a highly complex, nebulous and contested phenomenon. In the context of the sensationalized “mass exodus” from and within Africa, and in the context of global realities like climate change and nationalism, what do the numbers and statistics actually tell us? Do we know? The World Economic Forum recently called for “a more balanced examination of African migration.” But what would this look like within the context of migration policy and research? What are the forces driving the imbalance? What is wrong, if anything, with popular research methodologies in this area?  

Access to Justice - has become a touchstone of a free and fair society. But can justice actually be measured? If so, how?  This sub-theme explores the information asymmetries inherent in so-called justice institutions and how these can undermine justice outcomes. 

Trade - Recent research on global copper trade networks on the continent found thatwith regard to Swiss trading firms…there remains a lack of evidence regarding such basic information as:  the total number of people they employ, their turnover and profit, the taxes they pay to governments or the list of countries they operate in. This lack of information cannot be attributed only to our project’s limited funds, time and human resources: all things considered, the trading sector remains very secretive and has successfully maintained a low profile thus far.”[3] 

Theoretical and empirical papers, action research and case studies on the above themes using a range of scholarly approaches including qualitative, quantitative and critical methods with data-driven conclusions will be presented.