Thematic research programmes

Africa reflects rapid global changes. To understand the global complexity, a more forward-looking research strategy is required. For instance, broad and mutually beneficial intellectual cooperation between researchers in the Nordic and African regions is indispensable to finding the most appropriate and sustainable solutions to the current development challenges in Africa.

Economic growth and challenges of poverty programme

The world is changing rapidly and facing new challenges, and Africa indeed reflects these changes. In recent years, Africa has been described both as being trapped in a hopeless bottleneck and at the same time as being an essential part of a golden age of economic growth. The first perspective evidently relies on deterministic causality links, whereas the latter seems to overlook the limits of the recent growth phase. The average growth rate for Africa is lower than other regions, although there is a large variation in country circumstances. The growth rate for the region fell to 3.5 percent in 2015. A sharp decline in commodity prices has put severe strains on many of the largest economies in Africa, among them major oil exporters such as Angola and Nigeria. While these countries are facing difficult economic conditions, many other countries continue to register robust growth. In this category are Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Senegal whose growth is supported by ongoing infrastructure investment efforts and strong private consumption. These trends and developments have implications for the discourse on African development.

Natural resource management and environmental change programme

The magnitude of environmental problems in Africa coupled with bad governance and mismanagement of natural resources require that we conduct research to investigate trends and patterns in resource management and impacts of environmental change on human societies, including coping techniques adopted in the management of natural resources. This should enable us determine the best possible social planning and development approaches to suit African contexts. Unsustainable use of natural resources and unplanned urbanisation threaten Africa’s fragile environment, carrying grave implications for agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition, and the availability of potable water and wood fuel. Rapid unregulated urbanisation poses enormous problems of sanitation and waste disposal. In addition, manufacturing and other production processes that compromise energy use on the environment have consequences for individual livelihoods, which in turn have contributed to the conflicts in many African countries.
The challenge of climate change has no borders. Human activities worldwide entail consequences for the way we all live and for the future of our planet.

Gender equality, human rights and social change programme

Gender equality is at the heart of questions related to social change and social justice. International human rights agenda calls for equal rights to all and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which are based on the international human rights standards call for equality and non-discrimination. While women’s rights have been focused on in relation to the gaps and challenges in realization of human rights, the principles of equality and non-discrimination go beyond gender equality. Without gender equality and commitment to non-discrimination policies, social change will never lead towards more just societies and sustainable peace. The research programme is aiming to map out the complex relationships between various dimensions of gender studies, women’s empowerment in Africa, and social change. The issues of gender equality and human rights are not only in the centre of international declarations and agreements, but also African Union has paid particular attention to these issues by declaring the year 2016 as the Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on Rights of Women. On top of this several African countries have national action plans to implement UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

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