Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030)

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.

The LIRA 2030 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. It 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 2021.

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.

🌟 How it works

The LIRA 2030 programme supports its participants not only through grants, but also through training workshops, annual research forums and leadership and career advancement.

Training activities on integrated research

To achieve its objectives, the programme will provide training activities to strengthen scientific capacity in Africa to apply novel methodologies on co-design and co-production, and other relevant approaches required for undertaking high quality integrated research. Each training will also include modules on proposal development and science communication.

To identify participants for training, open calls for pre-proposals are launched. Representatives of successful pre-proposals are invited to participate in training workshops, following which participants are given 2-3 months to develop full proposals. Successful full proposals will receive 2-year research grants (see below). The training is an integral part of the grants in order to ensure that early career scientists have the necessary skills and knowledge to develop integrated research proposals and undertake this type of research. The first training workshop took place on 3-7 October 2016 in Nairobi 2016. The second training event took place in Kampala, at Makerere University, on 28 August- 1 September 2017.

In total, three training workshops will take place during the course of the programme. These will be delivered by ISC in partnership with ISC ROA and NASAC and other relevant institutions in Africa.

Collaborative research grants

The programme will provide two-year collaborative research grants (90 000 EUR each/2years) to foster research collaboration on global sustainability at the regional level by linking early career scientists across disciplines and countries. These grants will also support research co-design and co-production with stakeholders.

Only participants of the training activities on integrated research (see above) will be eligible to apply for the grants.

After 5 years, the programme aims to consolidate a network of over 30 integrated research projects on global sustainability. The research produced by these projects should provide the evidence and create tools to support decision-making on complex sustainability challenges in Africa. The knowledge will also be used to inform intergovernmental policy processes (e.g. Agenda 2030, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, Habitat III, IPCC and others).

Two Africa-based institutions (NASAC and ISC ROA), will be managing the research funding scheme.

Annual Research Forums

The programme will organize annual research forums to foster collaboration and networking between the supported research projects. Projects’ representatives will be invited to attend these events to share their results and experience with their peers. These events are expected to promote scientific exchanges and forge new research collaboration among projects. To foster cross-regional collaboration and with non-academic stakeholders, representatives from other relevant global research projects, decision makers and practitioners will also be invited to attend. The events will also include capacity building activities to strengthen projects’ science communication and science advice to governments skills.

In total, three annual open research forums are planned to take place during the programme, organized by ISC ROA in partnership with the ISC and NASAC.

Leadership and career advancement

The programme will also provide international career development opportunities for the early career scientists supported by the programme by nominating them for international scientific committees and conferences, working groups, and inter-governmental policy processes.

Call for pre-proposals

Over the course of the programme, a total of three calls for pre-proposals were launched.

The first call focused on understanding the “Energy-Health-Natural Disasters” nexus in the urban context in Africa.

The second call was on Advancing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities in Africa.

The third call was on Pathways towards Sustainable African Urban Development.

📋 Governance & Management

To oversee the implementation and strategic development of the LIRA 2030 programme, an advisory committee was appointed in June 2016. This committee includes scientists from Africa, stakeholder representatives and leadership representatives of all partners involved:

  • Cheikh Mbow – Executive Director: START International Inc.
  • Nelson Sewankambo – Professor of Medicine and Principal, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda
  • Nick Perkins – Director, SciDev.Net
  • Peggy Oti-Boateng – Senior Programme Specialist for S&T and Coordinator ANSTI, UNESCO MSRO for Southern Africa
  • Samuel Babatunde-Agbola – Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of the Social Sciences University of Ibada, Nigeria
  • Shuaib Lwasa – Chair of the IRDR Science Committee, Department of Geography, Makerere University, Uganda
  • Susan Parnell – Executive of the African Centre for Cities, Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa, former member of the Urban Health and Well-being Science Committee
  • Elvin Nyukuri – early career scientist, University of Nairobi, Kenya, Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Heide Hackmann (ex-officio) – ISC Chief Executive Director
  • Daniel Nyanganyura (ex-officio) – Director of ISC ROA
  • Mathieu Denis (ex-officio) – ISC Science Director

The committee will meet every year to define the programme’s scientific strategy, make research funding decisions based on the review of research proposals and agree on the further development of the programme.

A management team composed of representatives of ISC, the ISC Regional Office for Africa and NASAC has been established to drive the implementation of the programme, taking into account decisions made by the advisory committee.

📈 Progress 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.

🤝 Interested in contributing to this programme?

While there is a strong demand for integrated research, institutional and financial support is still insufficient, particularly in less developed countries. The 5-year programme seeks to increase global and regional institutional and financial support by engaging regional stakeholders in research, capacity building, and networking activities and by holding strategic meetings with funding agencies and key regional institutions. Therefore, if your organization is interested in supporting integrated research and associated capacity building and networking activities, please contact lira2030africa@council.science to discuss collaboration opportunities.

📖 Articles published to date that involve LIRA researchers

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

▶ Videos

Click on the “1/15” sign in the top right to view all LIRA videos

Changing Course: A look into transformative river management in Durban

Documentary, LIRA2030 team in Durban, 24 July 2020

RICHE Africa Workshop

Dr Tolullah Oni, 7 February 2020

Why South Africa is the most unequal country in the world

LIRA Grantee Justin Visagie, 27 June 2021

The Parkington Project

LIRA Grantee Justin Visagie, 8 July 2021



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