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FEATURE: Study sets the bar for scientific capacity-building initiatives in Africa

A research team led by Leigh Cobban and Mark New of the African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI), University of Cape Town (UCT) has released a Future Climate for Africa brief:  Barriers and opportunities for scientific capacity development on climate change in Africa. This announcement first appeared on

The brief summarises their in-depth study of seven different initiatives that have sought to build the capacity of African scientists and organisations on climate change and how climate change information can be made more relevant for – and integrated in – development.

Scientific capacity development initiatives need to have nine ‘best practice’ elements to succeed, to foster participants’ learning and career advancement:

  1. Adequate funding at institutional and individual level.
  2. Human resources at the institutional level to manage and coordinate funds and activities and deliver expertise.
  3. Infrastructural or computing capacity to support data and climate information systems work.
  4. Baseline skills of participants, particularly analytical skills, which are sufficient for building interdisciplinary competencies.
  5. Supportive platforms for communication between relevant participants and stakeholders.
  6. Supportive academic professional interactions such as peer-to-peer support, professional networks and senior supervision or mentoring to provide guidance, stimulate new ideas and ways of thinking, and facilitate new collaborations.
  7. An ethic of collaboration at the individual and institutional levels to facilitate peer-to-peer, cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional and/or cross-border collaboration.
  8. Integrative reflexive approaches to help participants understand their existing resources and competencies, and identify gaps and needs.
  9. Autonomy to practice and pursue opportunity both at the individual and institutional levels.

The authors find that climate change research scientists need to build up interdisciplinary competencies in order to be relevant and influential and make a positive difference in applied, decision-making contexts.

Scientific capacity building efforts have tended to be fragmented and incomplete in Africa and need to be broadened, to support individuals, institutions and broader systems.

The authors share comprehensive recommendations for research and policy institutions and also for the funding bodies that support them.

Download the policy brief  Barriers and opportunities for scientific capacity development on climate change in Africa.

The full author team was: Leigh Cobban and Mark New, African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI), University of Cape Town (UCT); Heila Lotz-Sisitka and Eureta Rosenburg, Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC), Rhodes University; Anna Steynor and Katinka Waagsaether, Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG), UCT; Julius Kamau and Sarah Correy, INTASAVE Africa; Katie Dietrich, Sarah Schweizer and Abby Gwaltney, global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START).

Image: Courtesy UNAMID.

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