Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa

Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa is a 5-year programme that seeks to increase the production of high-quality, integrated (inter- and transdisciplinary), solutions-oriented research on global sustainability by early career scientists in Africa. The knowledge will be used to address complex sustainability challenges in the region.

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The LIRA 2030 Africa programme (Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa) was launched in 2016 to foster scientific contributions from Africa to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in the urban context.

The LIRA 2030 programme is run by the International Science Council together with its Regional Office for Africa and in strong partnership with the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC). The Programme is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and will run until December 2020.


Read the latest LIRA report that describes examples of collaboration between science, policy and society carried out through transdisciplinary research in a range of African cities

Who is it for?

The programme aims to foster research collaboration primarily among early career scientists based in Africa with no more than 10 years’ work experience following their PhDs, or equivalent research experience. A particular emphasis is on ensuring participation of low-income countries (based on OECD ODA’s ranking) in research collaboration.

What is it about?

The five-year research funding programme seeks to increase the production and use of solution-oriented, contextualized and policy-relevant knowledge on sustainable development in cities across Africa. The distinctive feature of the LIRA programme is that it promotes transdisciplinary (TD) research, which is a collaborative mode of knowledge production that is oriented towards specific societal challenges and integrates knowledge and perspectives from different scientific disciplines and non – academic stakeholders.

Through knowledge co-production, the LIRA programme seeks to grasp the complexity of urban challenges, to take in account the diversity of scientific and societal views of the problems, and to increase the use of the scientific evidence as a basis for urban policy development and practice.

To achieve its objectives, the LIRA programme supports African early career scientists to lead collaborative research projects that explore new approaches to re-thinking urban futures in Africa, in partnership with local authorities, communities, industry and government.

Progress up to date

Since its inception in 2016, the programme has launched three open calls for pre-proposals:

  1. Understanding the ‘energy-health’ and ‘health-natural disasters’ nexuses in African cities (2016);
  2. Advancing the implementation of SDG11 in cities in Africa (2017); and
  3. Pathways towards Sustainable Urban Development in Africa (2018).

As a result of these calls, the programme has supported 28 collaborative research projects (to the value of up to 90,000 Euro each over two years) seeking to address complex challenges in the African urban context. Each project brings together cities in at least two countries in Africa. The goal is to foster research collaboration across African research institutions and learning across cities. A particular emphasis is made on ensuring participation of low-income countries in research collaboration. Twenty-two countries in Africa are covered by the projects, including Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The LIRA programme also provides five-days training workshops for the Principle Investigators of short-listed projects in order to build their scientific capacity to undertake TD research, to support researchers to build meaningful inter- and trans-disciplinary projects, to support the development of full proposals and to strengthen science communication skills. Three workshops have taken place: in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2016; in Kampala, Uganda, in August 2017; and in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in September 2018. Around 100 early-career scientists from across Africa have received training. The programme also provides TD training activities to co-investigators of the selected projects.

LIRA 2030 Africa also provides opportunities for scientific exchange and for South–South and North–South research collaboration through Annual Research Forums. Three Forums have taken place: in Abuja, Nigeria in November 2017; in Dakar, Senegal in February 2019; and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February 2020. Early-career scientists also have opportunities for career development through participation in international scientific committees and conferences, working groups and inter-governmental policy processes. For instance, during the 2016-2019 period, LIRA grantees were represented at the UN STI Forums, High-level Political Forums on Sustainable Development, the IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference, the International Trans-disciplinary conferences and many others. Scientists had an opportunity to present their research, contribute to the dialogue, build new networks and collaborations.

Articles published to date that involve LIRA researchers

Below is the list of the articles that have been published to date with contribution of the LIRA researchers. A number of manuscripts have been submitted for review and yet to be published.

  • Ambole, A., et al. 2019. Mediating Household Energy Transitions through Co-Design in Urban Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. Energy Research & Social Science 55(May):208–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2019.05.009
  • Kovacic, Musango, Ambole, et al. 2019. Interrogating Differences: A Comparative Analysis of Africa’s Informal Settlements, In World Development, Vol. 122, 2019, Pp 614-727. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X19301792
  • Ambole, A. 2020. Embedding Design in Transdisciplinary Research: Perspectives from Urban Africa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Design Issues, Volume 36 | Issue 2 | Spring 2020, p.28-40, https://doi.org/10.1162/desi_a_00588
  • Buyana, K., 2019. Keeping the doors open: experimenting science–policy–practice interfaces in Africa for sustainable urban development. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, pp.1-16. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-019-09699-3    
  • Buyana, K., Byarugaba, D., Sseviiri, H., Nsangi, G. and Kasaija, P., 2019. Experimentation in an African Neighborhood: Reflections for Transitions to Sustainable Energy in Cities. Urban Forum, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 191-204. Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-018-9358-z
  • Buyana, K., Lwasa, S., and Kasaija, P. 2019. Gender Ideologies and Climate Risk: How is the Connection Linked to Sustainability in an African City? International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development (IJSESD), 10(1) https://doi.org/10.4018/IJSESD.2019010102
  • International Science Council (ISC), 2020. Advancing the 2030 Agenda in African cities through knowledge co-production: Urban experiments led by early-career African scientists. International Science Council, Paris. DOI: 10.24948/2020.01  
  • O’Farrell, P., Anderson, P., Culwick, C., Currie, P., Kavonic, J., McClure, A., et al., 2019. Towards resilient African cities: Shared challenges and opportunities towards the retention and maintenance of ecological infrastructure. Global Sustainability (2). https://doi.org/10.1017/sus.2019.16
  • Oni, T., Mogo, E., Ahmed, A., et al., 2019. Breaking down the silos of Universal Health Coverage: towards systems for the primary prevention of non-communicable diseases in Africa. BMJ Global Health 2019;4:e001717. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2019-001717    
  • Oni, T., Kockat, J., et al., (2019). The healthcare community needs to champion healthy and sustainable urban living spaces. BMJ June 2019 https://bit.ly/340kfmz   
  • Weimann, A. and Oni, T., (2019). A Systematised Review of the Health Impact of Urban Informal Settlements and Implications for Upgrading Interventions in South Africa, a Rapidly Urbanising Middle-Income Country. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(19), 3608; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16193608
  • Vearey, J., Luginaah, I., Magitta, NF., Shilla, DJ., Oni, T. 2019. Urban Health in Africa: a critical global health priority. BMC Public Health. 2019 Mar 25;19(1):340. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6674-8  
  • Ebikeme, C., Gatzweiler, F., Oni, T., Liu, J., Oyuela, A., Siri, J. Xiamen Call for Action: Building the Brain of the City-Universal Principles of Urban Health. Journal of Urban Health. 2019; 96(4):507-50. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-018-00342-0  
  • Ndebele-Murisa, MR., Mubaya, CP., Pretorius, L., Mamombe, R., Iipinge, K., Nchito, W., et al. 2020. City to city learning and knowledge exchange for climate resilience in southern Africa. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227915. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227915

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