AISA strives to advance the broader Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) objectives through coordinated alignment with the HSRC strategy and research programmes.

The research projects we implement are guided by the overarching theme expressed in our new business plan for 2016 - 2019: “Seeking African Solutions for Africa’s Sustainable Development”. As in previous years, AISA continues to aspire to serve as a knowledge hub for conducting and disseminating multi-disciplinary research focusing on the African continent.


AISA has been carrying out a number of interesting research projects with several outputs being produced in the process. These projects include:

Local voices within the African structural transformation paradigm: Lessons from Madagascar

One of the most critical challenges of the post-colonial state in Africa is its inability to shed its colonial character and to evolve along lines that are consistent with local realities. Indeed, the analysis of the current configuration of the state and national political institutions in Africa is complicated, considering the varied contested political interpretations of the foundation of the state in Africa, its development and its operations. Applying a multidisciplinary qualitative research approach based on engagement with and interrogation of the key actors, AISA researchers working on this project sought to assess the role of local voices in the resolution of inter-community conflict by implementing a pilot study in Madagascar. This also included assessing the legal parameters permitting African countries, continental and global multilateral institutions to intervene in Madagascar’s internal conflict. The study found out that Madagascar lacked an inclusive participatory approach to development thinking prior to the 2009 political upheavals. Its governance structures did not respond to local realities in building peace and confidence amongst local communities. Major challenges and opportunities created by the conflict include a need for investment to reconstruct and develop the country.  In addition, South Africa can lead this process, given its hegemonic position in SADC and experience in home-grown peacebuilding processes. A Policy Brief has been published and 3 journal articles have been completed and are awaiting peer-review. The study will be replicated in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 Socio-economic transformation through renewable energy

Substantive socio-economic transformation remains an ongoing challenge in Africa. Deploying a comparative perspective, AISA researchers working on this project investigated the role of renewable energies in the socio-economic and environmental transformation of communities in South Africa, the DRC, and Tanzania. The study was premised on the assumption that rural and urban access to energy is one of the key measures of poverty and inequality in Africa.  It is a common knowledge that in Africa access to electricity is a privilege reserved for urban areas. At the same time, renewable energies constitute a suite of new sociotechnical means to equitable access to energy by all communities.

Specific objectives of the project included to: map the value chains of renewable technologies in use in selected countries; identify and evaluate the institutional and policy frameworks that inform the development and adoption of renewable energy technologies in selected countries; determine the social, economic and environmental spinoffs, that derive from the adoption of renewable energy technologies in the respective countries; and develop a theoretical framework (or model) that could inform future developments, and use of renewable energy technologies by African communities. The study established that in the selected countries, there are a number of enduring challenges to transformation through renewables. These include difficulties associated with attracting investment funds into the energy sector; existence of old infrastructure that is unreliable and inefficient; and physical terrain challenges that make it more expensive to install renewable energy infrastructure. However, in most cases, the appropriate institutional framework has been put in place to drive developments in the energy sector. The study will be replicated in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Egypt and Algeria.

Chronic Violence project

The chronic violence project proposal is work in progress initiated in 2015 intentionally to: (i) Generate evidence-based knowledge, content, and experiences through innovative collaborative research incorporating new approaches to challenges of extant hybrid violence; (ii) Insert evidence-based policy-relevant knowledge from the continent into national, regional, and global discourse and policies on human security; (iii) Create a network of scholars and practitioners building capacity of new scholars and researchers to both support and advance the mandate of building new knowledge and taking that knowledge into the public domain; and, (iv) Advance a roadmap of principles for mutually addressing common developmental challenges. The efforts have brought together a team of experts as the principal Research Group (RG) for the project undertaking. They came from across Africa, Europe, and USA to a colloquy held in Pretoria on 20-23 March 2016. A policy brief emerged from this meeting and is under review with HSRC Press. This project undertaking employ implementation science as an innovative tool to address protracted poverty and inequality through scientific activity and policy interest focused on developing evidence-based programs for children, youth, families, and adults in need of support and services.

Resources 4 Development project: Is China’s ‘Infrastructure Diplomacy’ Promoting African Dependency on China?

From January 26 to February 17, 2016, research was undertaken in Kinshasa and Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The fieldwork was designed to assess the 2008 minerals for infrastructure exchange agreement between DRC and China.  Over the years, the mineral resources for infrastructure joint ventures have become widely practiced by China and several African countries.  The DRC-China agreement which is the largest on the continent is of critical interest particularly in reference to Agenda 2063.  Agenda 2063 maintains that Africa will not only engage the global economy as an equal partner, but prioritize infrastructure development as a contributing factor to the integration agenda and industrialization.  The objectives of the research was to determine whether the DRC-China mining infrastructure agreement for resources would promote African dependency on China. The dependency theory was utilized to determine how power is exercised between China and African countries on mineral trade, and whether the minerals for infrastructure model would inhibit or promote growth for the continent.

The field work was premised on a qualitative and quantitative approach.  Data was collected through interviews with government officials in Kinshasa, and the mining community in Kolwezi. There were a total of 6 interviews with government officials, 5 interviews with mining management, 2 interviews with civil societies, and 4 focus groups, of 20 people each with mine workers and civil societies were conducted.  The questions posed in the interviews and focus groups asked the participants to relate their understanding of issues surrounding the 2008 DRC-China Agreement, and its impact on their communities. Key findings established that the minerals for resources agreement did not entirely benefit the country and would probably promote infrastructure dependency on the continent. Furthermore, if Agenda 2063 is going to be effective, African governments will have to restructure mining agreements with China to promote mineral beneficiation. In terms of information dissemination, given that South Africa currently has several mining agreements with China the output of the project has been shared with the Department of Mineral Resources, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and mining communities in Limpopo, in particular in Burgersfort at areas such as Maroga and Drieskop.


During the year under review, AISA engaged with a number of publics and constituencies. The following snapshots are worth mentioning:

 Year of China in South Africa Conference

On November 11-12, 2015, AISA-HSRC partnered with the Department of Arts and Culture to host a Cultural Diplomacy conference which fell under the theme of “The Year of China in South Africa” which was pronounced by South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese President Xi Jinping on 26 March 2013. The conference was designed to determine how both countries could promote a win-win partnership in cultural diplomacy. The event addressed questions such as “whether cultural heritage and cultural goods could be translated into economic gains, or used to foster skills transfer and development? Moreover, could there be sustainable cultural diplomacy initiatives that can promote growth and development?’’. The impact of the conference can be measured through the conceptual framework that was provided by AISA-HSRC on cultural diplomacy best practices, and the cultural diplomacy policy analysis that was provided for the Department of Arts and Culture. Moreover, there was quite a large turnout of South African and Chinese government officials at the event.  Scholars from both countries inclusive of the HSRC, also presented papers. Finally, the conference also facilitated possibilities of future project participation between HSRC and the South African Department of Arts and Culture.

 “One-Belt-One-Road” for a prosperous Africa.

In partnership with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, China Institute of International Studies, Durban University of Technology and the Confucius Institute, AISA in the Human Sciences Research Council successfully organized a conference titled One Belt One Road and a prosperous Africa.  The conference was held on the 19-20th of November 2015 at Durban University of Technology. The conference served as a built up for FOCAC meeting to be held in South Africa.  Its main objective was to carve a continental wide approach on One Belt One Road Strategy that has been developed by China.  The conference succeeded to bring together specialists in China development strategies.  The long term intention was to consolidate specialists’ presentations into a publication that will be used to further solicit inputs from African countries and scholars on how Africa should participate in China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

Membership of APSTA

AISA has continuously sought to deepen its impact and footprint on the continent. In 2014 AISA applied and was officially accepted as a member of APSTA in 2015. APSTA is the independent premier Pan-African association with legitimate and close working relations with the AU Commission and Regional Economic Communities, as well as other regional and international partners and stakeholders. Through this membership, AISA is making measured debate and efforts towards peacekeeping capacity-building in Africa through education, teaching, training, research, and policy implementation support and advocacy on the African continent.

AISA Campus lecture Series and seminars:

AISA’s campus lecture series seeks to share our research experiences and methodologies with university students and the public in South Africa. In 2015/2016 a total of 624 students were reached at the University of Johannesburg; Mangosuthu University; University of Fort Hare, University of Limpopo; University of the North; and University of Western Cape. Lectures were also presented at the University of Venda from 12 to 15 October 2015 and the South African National Defense Forces on 18 June 2015.

 The 10th Africa Young Graduates and Scholars (AYGS) conference 2016:

The conference was held at the University of Limpopo from the 14th to the 17th of March 2016 under the theme: “The Africa we want”. Quality papers were presented and AISA will publish electronically a selected number of the papers into a peer-reviewed book. Presentations on fellowship programmes that the AYGS participants could consider for building themselves up academically were also made by various organization. A follow-up AYGS conference is planned for early 2017. Watch this space!

MOU with the University of Colorado Boulder

In recognition of the common goals and objectives for making a contribution to the development of human and social science through effective use of research, in 2015/16, AISA concluded and signed a MoU with the University of Colorado Boulder. The objective of this Memorandum is to provide a framework within which the Parties can develop and undertake collaborative activities and projects. AISA and the University of Colorado Boulder intend to consider ways in which they can: (a) Share agendas, knowledge and ideas, and plan joint activities in areas of common interest; (b) Utilize and leverage their existing resources and facilities to mutual advantage and benefit; and, (c) Maximize impact through working in partnership. Currently, under this MoU the parties are developing a chronic violence and implementation science multi-year project proposal.


As a programme, we are trying out a number of innovative approaches and methodologies for research and end-user engagement. In 2015/2016, AISA researchers under the Science and Technology Unit applied the systems thinking and system dynamics approaches to foster innovative thinking in research and data interpretation. This requires infusing systems thinking and complexity science into the social sciences. This derives from the increasing complexity in social problems and systems. Systems thinking and systems dynamics are based on the concept of holism, i.e. being cognizant that observed phenomenon such as poverty and inequality may derive from underlying complex relationships between factors in the social system. At the heart of systems thinking is the recognition that factors behind the prevailing situations are interdependent, that causal effect relationships between factors are often two-way, and that the impact of action is neither instantaneous nor linear. In essence, systems thinking makes explicit cause-effect assumptions between related variables, enabling independent assessment and improvement of mental models behind a particular situation or prevailing condition. To promote the application of systems thinking and system dynamics in social systems AISA/HSRC has partnered with the University of Stellenbosch in producing a book titled System Dynamics Models for Africa’s Development planning.