Institute for Water Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa


Institution Country Degree (s)
Rhodes University South Africa Hydrology (MSc/Phd)

Water Resource Science (MSc/Phd)

Makerere University Uganda Chemistry (MSc/Phd)
Federal University of Technology, Minna Nigeria Applied Hydrobiology (MSc/Phd)

Hydrogeology (MSc/Phd)

University of Kinshasa Congo (DRC) Water Resources(MSc)

Natural Resources Management (Phd)

ENSH Algeria Hydraulics (MSc/Phd)
TU Delft: EU Technical partner

Achieving sustainable development, and inclusive growth within Africa would largely be undermined if its water resources are not sustainably managed, utilised, protected and governed. The continent is facing multiple water-related challenges, including declining water quantity and quality, inadequate governance and institutional structures, declining monitoring networks, increasing resource use in the face of a growing human population, and increasing resource variability associated with future changing climates. As the region strives toward improving political, economic and social stability, the importance of secure water supplies will assume increasing significance. If this is neglected, a potential for conflict exists: 1) within and between communities -through a lack of water- and sanitation-related access and services, and 2) between countries- through a lack of agreement on transboundary sharing of water resources and most importantly, 3) between societal constituencies through perceived non-inclusive and equitable sharing of water resources (distributive justice).

There is an urgent need to increase Africa’s human capacity in the field of water resources to develop socially- relevant solutions to water resource problems on the continent. The shortage of trained, qualified and competent academics and professionals hinders Africa’s efforts in addressing the challenges facing the water sector. ‘Experts’ from outside the continent are often called upon to address specific water-related challenges. This approach is not sustainable as it does not provide long-term capacity development for Africans. Some progress has however been made to address the region’s skill shortages, e.g. through the Southern Africa WaterNet programme ( and the Carnegie-RISE-funded Sub-Saharan Africa Water Resources Network (SSAWRN).

The water challenges facing the region are inherently complex and systemic. It is now clear that addressing these challenges requires a fundamental and radical shift in the manner in which students and staff are trained. We argue for a transdisciplinary, socially-engaged approach rooted in complexity and system thinking. We understand research contexts as complex social –ecological systems. This involves the co-production of integrative, socially meaningful and solution-oriented knowledge that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries, and includes the widest range of knowledge sources: academic, professional, practice-based and local. This engaged participatory research style is rare in Africa, largely because a critical mass of practitioners is absent. In addition to the traditional specialist skills required within the water resources management sector (for example hydrology, ecology, economics, chemistry etc.), future graduates should be able to place their knowledge into a broader context – connecting meaningfully with other forms of knowledge. This skills-base will contribute substantially to sustainable, equitable, appropriate and developmentally effective water resource management in Africa. A critical outcome of transdisciplinary, socially-engaged training is that the learning pathways are seriously embedded in practice, and real-world challenges, so that by the time students graduate, they have been sufficiently expose to the challenges of the workplace, and society at large. This kind of meaningful training, thus prepare the students for employment, a critical envisaged outcome of the 2019 Intra-Africa mobility call.

The overall aim of the partnership will be achieved through: 1) a transdisciplinary, socially-engaged training embedded in existing programmes within partner institutions, ensuring increases in the numbers of highly qualified and competent (MSc and PhD) graduates in the field of water resources in Africa; 2) develop and harmonise programmes and curricula, with a particular emphasis on disciplinary excellence and transdisciplinary capability; 3) build and sustain teaching and research capabilities among partner institutions; 4) design and implement research programmes based on collaboration and cooperation during, and beyond, the proposed funding; 5) facilitate student and staff mobility to promote multiculturalism and internationalisation among African institutions of higher learning; 6) contribute to innovation and water technologies that advance social-economic development of Africa and; 7) address the professional career development and employability of graduates by creating a direct interface between AWaRMN and industry partners.

The Institute for Water Research (IWR) ( at Rhodes University (RU) is the ARUA (African Research University Alliance hub for Centre of Excellence in Water. ARUA is a network of research-intensive African universities, with an explicit aim of drawing on complementary research excellence in addressing African complex developmental challenges. The IWR being the lead for Water, has extensive experience in coordinating large research projects involving multiple partners. For example, the IWR successfully led the Carnegie-RISE (Regional Initiatives in Science and Education: network: the Sub-Saharan African Water Resources Network (SSAWRN), involving a network of four African universities – Rhodes University, University of Botswana, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and Makerere University.

The growing recognition that water challenges require innovative approaches for knowledge production is an opportunity for African universities to reflect, evaluate and review current knowledge production trajectories. There is a need to share experiences, insights and perspectives with a view to integrating the best available knowledge and practice to improve the quality of African higher education and promote sustainable development. AWaRMN will facilitate this through joint critical evaluation and review of programmes, so as to mainstream disciplinary excellence within transdisciplinary capacity. Rhodes University and TU Delft (the technical partner) have extensive experience in TD research and curriculum design, and have previously collaborated on a range of projects. The two institutions will play a key role in capacitating the other partner institutions in terms of TD research and training. In addition, the specialist, disciplinary skills and experience in research, and teaching and training, of individual partner institutions will be shared across all the partner institutions. The participating institutions have identified their respective water research and training capacity, not only at the institutional level, but also at the national level. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has abundant water resources, but lacks the required technical and scientific expertise to adequately manage these resources. Nigeria and Uganda have very poor water quality occasioned by pollution and systemic governance challenges, whereas regions in South Africa are classified as either semi-arid or arid and therefore experience water security challenges. All partner countries have therefore identified the need for sustainable water management as an urgent social–ecological and economic priority. AWaRMN offers a unique opportunity to foster institutional cooperation through a joint transdisciplinary research agenda, and training.


The innovative character of this proposal is its explicit recognition and call for a transdisciplinary, socially-engaged approach, rooted in complexity and system thinking, to enhance capacity and training for water resources, as an enabler of the realisation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Africa. The imperative for TD research and training has been recognised by the European Union, and is increasingly underpinning research funding, e.g. in the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation – Horizon 2020. The traditional research and teaching approach to water challenges has been solely disciplinary focused, with little attention to the crosscutting nature of water. We argue that if the complex water challenges plaguing Africa are to be sustainably addressed, a new approach to research, teaching and practice that is integrative, solution-oriented and inclusive (academic and non-academic) is required. This, will believe will also increase the employability of students. AWaRMN will focus on long-term capacity building in the African water sector, as well as developing and sustaining disciplinary excellence integrated into TD research, teaching and practice capacity. The consortium will develop mechanisms to retain developed skills within the African continent by creating direct links between academia, industry partners and relevant government agencies and institutions.

The programmes in this proposal have been carefully selected to address the identified priority water challenges and to promote social-ecological and economic development and green jobs (jobs related to a trajectory of increased sustainability). For example, the programmes on hydrology, hydrogeology and sustainable water management are devoted to addressing water quantity, climate change and water-linked food security challenges. The programmes on water resource science, hydrobiology and ecology are devoted to addressing the critical issues of water quality, ecosystem health and sustainability, and water governance. In addition, AWaRMN, through assistance by the technical partner TU Delft, will fully utilise cutting edge technology to extend staff and student mobility between the partners. TU Delft has frontier experience in online learning, and this experience will be utilised to develop an online platform hosted on the AWaRMN website. Students will engage with modules to enhance the effectiveness of face-to-face mobility. A knowledge foundation laid by remote learning will allow for mobility to hosting institutions to be focussed on confirming the knowledge foundation and on field work and ‘learning by doing’. Modelling is another key partner strength. Since there is a scarcity of observed data for most catchments in Africa, the existing modelling capacity will be deepened and extended across the partners.


Added value emerges from effectively sharing of disciplinary knowledge excellence embedded in a TD approach to complex social-ecological systems. This claim is founded on existing loci of disciplinary skills and a track record of: 1) taking TD research into practice and; 2) managing research and supervisory networks in Africa, for the water sector. Finally, the premier water network in the region, Waternet, is confined to southern and eastern Africa, and currently does not adopt an explicit TD approach to student training, research and capacity development. In contrast, AWaRMN is spread across four regions of Africa, and will therefore support students throughout Africa.


  • Degree-seeking Mobility (long-term)
  • Credit-seeking mobility (short-term) – courses taken abroad must be recognized by home institution
  • Beneficiaries (staff and students) MUST be national of AU member states and resident in Africa (Africans, not resident in Africa as at the time of applications are not qualify).
  • Non-Africans staff in the partner universities can not be awarded mobility scholarship (but can supervise students)
  • No one African country can exceed 20% of total mobility
  • Target groups:
    • TG1: student registered/admitted in or obtained a HEI degree from the partner universities: RU, UNIKIN, FUTMINAA, MU, ENSH
    • TG2: a HEI not involved not part of AWaRMN but established in Africa

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