The Institute applies a regional and interdisciplinary perspective to the task of developing new solutions to urgent challenges facing East Africa.
The Aga Khan University (AKU)’s newly launched East African Institute looks beyond geographic and disciplinary boundaries in addressing a wide range of issues important to the region, aiming to generate novel insights and shape decision-making through research, evidence-based dialogue, public engagement and partnerships.
The Institute focuses on five themes identified through broad consultations with individuals in government, civil society, academia and business: integration and regional food security; trans-boundary biodiversity and ecosystem services; integration and education; population health and human development; and the creative economy.
Integration and regional food security: Key issues to be addressed include the extent to which intra-regional trade enhances access to food; whether there are populations whose food security status will be adversely affected or improved by integration; and identifying areas where agricultural policy harmonisation could contribute to the creation of flourishing agricultural markets.
Trans-boundary biodiversity and ecosystem services: Ensuring long-term ecological integrity and viability of wildlife populations requires a shift toward spatially connected parks and reserves and cross-border management.
Integration and education: A common framework for education policy and practice will help to foster collaboration and make it possible for students to undertake post-secondary and graduate study outside their home country, strengthening social and cultural ties and building the pool of highly qualified personnel.
Population health and human development: Issues to be addressed include the need for regional and national health research systems that contribute to equitable health development; innovation in primary health care delivery systems; and encouraging uptake of evidence-based policy and practice.
Creative economy: This programme focus is intended to facilitate a better understanding of the key issues underlying the emerging creative economy at the national and regional levels. Research will be undertaken with a high level of cross-sector consultation and collaboration.
The Institute is currently engaged in its East African Dialogue Series, which aims to help the region deal with issues related to youth, urbanisation, urban food systems, economic growth and inequality and the oil, gas and mining industries. Supported by funding from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation Canada and Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the Dialogue Series kicked off with a survey of the values, opinions and attitudes of young people ages 18 to 35 from across East Africa, the results of which were discussed in Nairobi at an event that brought together 200 youth leaders.
In the case of urbanisation, the Institute will investigate how community-level perspectives on issues such as security and waste removal can inform higher-level planning.
In tackling the question of how East Africa can avoid the so-called “resource curse,” the Institute is working with both the extractive industry and with residents of Kenya’s oil-rich Turkana region.
And as it investigates ways to reduce hunger in East Africa’s booming cities, the Institute is collecting evidence on food prices, accessibility and quality in Nairobi, and advising the county government on fostering agricultural activity within city limits.