RISE (the Regional Initiative in Science and Education) aims to strengthen higher education in sub-Saharan Africa by increasing the population of qualified faculty teaching in Africa’s universities. RISE supports PhD-level and MSc-level scientists and engineers through university-based research and training networks in selected disciplines.
RISE networks provide comprehensive graduate training programs, where students and faculty seeking advanced degrees can take advantage of the complementary instruction, research opportunities and laboratory facilities available at each institution within the network. While the core mission of RISE is to prepare scientists and engineers to staff and strengthen Africa’s universities, it has a broader goal of building capacity in science, technology and innovation as a key to economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
There are five inter-linked RISE networks throughout Africa
This network is based largely on the premise that increased skills in materials science and engineering are needed in southern Africa to develop and add value to the extensive mineral deposits of the region. AMSEN benefits from existing collaborations, including the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials established at Wits in 2004 and the Wits-Namibia Engineering Curriculum Development Program in nanotechnology, sponsored by Norway’s SANTED Programme. To reduce the brain drain in this field from academia to industry, AMSEN uses a retention strategy that includes supplementation from industry, allowing staff to consult for and be seconded to industry, and providing incentives for publishing in academic journals.
In the face of rapid population growth, loss of agricultural lands, and insufficient human capacity, RISE-AFNNET works to develop Africa’s rich biodiversity into a natural products industry of social and economic significance. Building on an already active research network of 10 member countries called NAPRECA, RISE-AFNNET expands existing research programs and formalizes educational activities in such natural products (NP) fields as engineering, biochemistry, environmental science, pharmacology, economic development and nutrition. Students work on NP research projects in the context of poverty alleviation, gender equity, and Millennium Development Goals.
Because of the great biodiversity of southern Africa, increased capacity in natural products research has the potential to increase food security, public health, and value-added exports. The SABINA network trains both PhD and MSc scientists through research in the biochemistry and chemistry of natural products, including bioinformatics as an essential tool for data management and the elucidation of structure and function. Research focuses on increasing the understanding of useful plants or fungi (such as mushrooms, seaweeds, and tea crops) through the study of screening assays, biosynthetic pathways, gene expression, modes of action, synthetic production and genetic diversity.
SSAWRN fits the RISE model by building on two existing networks – one that emphasizes research and another that promotes postgraduate education. It addresses the most pressing water issues of the region, including rising use, declining quality, insufficient research and teaching capacity, inadequate weather stations and the likelihood of increased variability of water supplies associated with future climates. The network assigns first priority to research projects that address practical issues and contribute to problem solving. Students are encouraged to share research experience with others and to participate in consultancy work. SSAWRN is working to develop a culture of multidisciplinary problem solving.
WIO-RISE provides research and training in skills associated with the utilization of coastal and marine resources and protection of the coastal and marine environment. The network avails itself of the long experience of the IMS/UDSM, which has roots in the former East African Marine Fisheries Research Organization, and the affiliated Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association based in Zanzibar. The School of Marine and Coastal Studies at Eduardo Mondlane University is strategically located near the Sofala Bank, a major fishery and aquaculture resource, and the University of Cape Town has the only department in southern Africa offering graduate training in physical oceanography, climate science, and atmospheric science.