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The African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE)

ARISE fellowships are aimed at building the capacity of African researchers, particularly early-career scientists, to deliver cutting-edge research in contribution to efforts being made towards the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based and innovation-led continent.

The African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE) targets 40 young and emerging African early career researchers across 40 African countries. Specifically, ARISE seeks to: 
•    Enhance the capabilities of emerging African early career research leaders committed to a research and teaching career in Africa
•    Strengthen institutional research management and support systems to enable pan-African research to thrive 
•    Support the generation of cutting-edge research in contribution to the transformation of African into a knowledge-based and innovation led continent.
ARISE is a Euro 25 million programme implemented by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in partnership with the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU).

  • Aligned to the priorities of the AU-EU High Level Policy Dialogue on Science, Technology, and Innovation
  • 40 – Number of emerging African research leaders targeted
  • 40 African countries
  • €500,000 grant award per grantee
  • 5 – number of years for each grant
  • Selection is based on scientific excellence in a continent-wide open competition
  • Grantee mentorship programme support

Grant awards for ARISE are expected to be announced in April 2022 in time for commencement of ARISE Fellowships in May 2022.

The African Academy of Sciences   
The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) is a non-aligned, non-political, not-for-profit pan African organisation whose vision is to see transformed lives on the African continent through science. Our tripartite mandate is recognising excellence, providing advisory and think tank functions and implementing key STI programmes addressing Africa’s developmental challenges.  

Africa-Europe Alliance 
The Alliance complements the long-standing political partnership between the two continents. It deepens the economic and trade relations and goes beyond a donor-recipient approach, an "equals’ alliance". At the 5th African Union - European Union Summit both partners agreed that economic investment, job creation and trade were common priorities, requiring joint commitment. I Website bit.ly/3dlA7rN 

Africa-Europe Alliance 
The Alliance complements the long-standing political partnership between the two continents. It deepens the economic and trade relations and goes beyond a donor-recipient approach, an "equals’ alliance". At the 5th African Union - European Union Summit both partners agreed that economic investment, job creation and trade were common priorities, requiring joint commitment. I Website bit.ly/3dlA7rN
 

Meet the Team

AESA Team Member
Jane Catherine Ngila Senior Advisor
AESA Team Member
Obed Ogega Programmes Manager
AESA Team Member
Quinta Masiwe Grants Officer
AESA Team Member
Rowland Opisa Programme Officer – Monitoring and Evaluation
AESA Team Member
Shylee Mbuchucha Communications Officer - Media

Grantees

Abdelnaby Elshahawy
Egypt

Project: Novel Functional nanomaterials for Energy Storage Applications

Research domain:

Capacities for science and higher education

Host Organisation & country:

Assiut University, Egypt

Summary

Dr Elshahawy and his team continue to fabricate metal ion capacitors that can charge faster and store high energy density in most devices thus ultimately contributing to the ever-growing need for better and efficient energy sources in Africa.

Grantee Description

Dr Elshahawy works as an assistant Professor at the Physics Department, Assiut University, Egypt. He received his Ph.D. degree from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2018. Dr. Elshahawy and his team successfully developed several novel processes on advanced materials for energy storage and conversion.

Project: Novel Functional nanomaterials for Energy Storage Applications

The project aims to design different and novel electrochemical energy storage devices and establish an energy storage laboratory. the electrochemical zinc ion capacitors (as an example) have dominated the energy storage research area in recent years resulting from their high energy density without sacrificing the high-power density, outstanding long cycle life, and low-cost fabrication process. Many studies were released to develop new materials for electrochemical Zn ion capacitor’s anode and cathode to improve their conductivity, rate capability, and energy density. From this point of view, this project aims to establish different properties of different functional nanomaterials such as conductivity, porosity, morphology, and the impact of these properties on their electrochemical performance. This work is a pioneer in preparing and developing new functional nanomaterials and their nanocomposites to fabricate an electrochemical Zn ion capacitor and introduce it to the industry field.

 

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Ahmed Amara Konate
Guinea-Bissau

Project: Multi-scale study of artisanal gold mining processes in West Africa for developing better safe practices

Research domain:

Capacities for science and higher education

Host Organisation & country:

Institut Supérieur des Mines et Géologie de Boké, Guinea

Summary

Artisanal Gold Mining (AGM) which is practiced by millions of people in Africa suffers from practices based on the absence of planning, the use of rudimentary tools and the uncontrolled use of toxic chemicals. Dr Konaté’s research will provide artisanal miners with the essential practical basis for better management of mining techniques as well as to identify and prevent the risks involved in maximizing the recovery of gold using inexpensive, accessible processes requiring less effort while ensuring environmentally sustainable development.

Grantee Description

Dr Ahmed Amara Konaté is a 2022 ARISE fellow, and is a senior researcher, lecturer, and assistant professor at the Higher Institute of Mines and Geology of Boké in Guinea. Education wise, he received is PhD in Applied geophysics from China university of Geoscience (CUG-Wuhan) in 2015 and earned his habitation in Geological Resources and Geological Engineering from CUG-Wuhan (in 2017). Dr Konaté’s current research looks to develop new approaches on the resolution of environmental and societal issues related to mining activities in West African States.

Project: Multi-scale study of artisanal gold mining processes in West Africa for developing better safe practices

The Mining Environment project that he is developing aims through a multidisciplinary approach (Mining, Hydrogeology, Geophysics, Geotechnics,...) to allow an objective characterization of the impacts and their evolution over time, and to improve AGM techniques. Multiscale satellite imagery analysis, laboratory and pilot scale studies will be used to develop an AGM model that is profitable, secure and environmentally friendly. In full expansion, AGM suffers from practices based on the absence of planning, the use of rudimentary tools and the uncontrolled use of toxic chemicals. There is no quantitative data on the impact on the environment due to AGM. The knowledge resulting from this research will help improve the management of AGM and should ultimately be able to provide solutions to promote smoother gold mining, with less impact on the environment. The methodologies that will be developed during this research will be extrapolated to different sites in West Africa in collaboration with researchers working in these areas. This work will also allow a transfer of knowledge from the academic world to public authorities, and gold miners, and will allow a transfer of skills and integration into the universities working within the ACE Partner.

 

 

 

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Alassan Assani Seidou
Benin

Project: Developing mobile application for formulating cost-efficient balanced and climate sensitive rations for improving livelihood of smallholder cattle farmers in West-Africa

Research area:

Animal nutrition and climate change

Host Organisation & country:

Faculty of Agronomy, University of Parakou (UP), Benin

Summary

Feed is the main limiting and most expensive factor in the livestock production system in developing countries. Poor knowledge of the nutritional requirements of local cattle breeds limits the formulation of balanced rations for these animals in West Africa. In fact, even where quality feeding stuffs are available, rations are not well formulated. Thus, local cattle breeds are not properly fed, resulting in lower milk and meat productivity, potential income losses for small-scale farmers as well as feed wastage. In addition, poor feeding of animals causes greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, particularly methane, which contribute to further global warming.

Dr Assani’s research project will develop mobile application to formulate low-cost, climate-sensitive balanced rations from locally available feed resources for small-scale cattle farmers in Benin, Togo and Niger.

Grantee Description

Dr Alassan Assani Seidou is an ARISE fellow and Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Production at Faculty of Agronomy (FA), University of Parakou (UP) in Benin. He obtained his Ph.D. in Animal Science and Livestock Systems Modeling from UP in 2017 and his doctoral work focused on sustainable management of pastoral resources in Upper Alibori forest in Northern Benin.

Dr. Assani expects that the ARISE programme will help to develop his career and his becoming an independent leading scientist in Africa. He hopes to contribute to the training of young African scientists.  With outputs from his work, he intends to inform policymakers to enforce regulations on the sustainable livestock sector in sub-Saharan Africa.

Project: Developing mobile application for formulating cost-efficient balanced and climate sensitive rations for improving livelihood of smallholder cattle farmers in West-Africa

Lack of appropriate feeding standards for developing countries is one of the main constraints for further development of feeding management. It is therefore important to study the nutritional requirements of indigenous cattle accurately and to develop an efficient usage method of local feed resources that do not compete with human consumption. This research project will develop a low-cost and climate sensitive balanced ration formulation mobile application from locally available feed resources for small-scale cattle farmers in Benin, Togo and Niger. In addition, this mobile application will be available in the local languages to facilitate its adoption by local livestock farmers. Feeding animals with balanced rations to meet the actual nutrient requirements of beef and dairy cattle at different stages of production will increase milk and meat yields and incomes for small-scale cattle farmers and reduce feed wastage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This innovation will improve the living conditions for millions of farmers in West-Africa.

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Annette Uwineza
Rwanda

Project: Genomic and Environmental factors of neurodevelopmental disorders in Rwandan Children

Research area:

Genetics and Genomics

Host Organisation & country:

University of Rwanda, Rwanda

Summary

Genetic and environmental risk factors causing many cases of neurodevelopmental disorders in Africa are generally unknown. Neurodevelopmental disorders occur when complex genetic and environmental factors combine to change brain development. In children, these disorders are usually characterized by impairment in intellectual functioning, reading ability, social skills, memory, attention or focus skills.

Dr Uwineza’s research will use advanced genetic laboratory technics to identity changes in patients’ DNA associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, autism spectrum disorders and microcephaly.

Grantee Description

Dr Annette Uwineza is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Clinical Biology at School of Medicine and Pharmacy of the College of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Rwanda. She obtained her PhD in Medical Sciences (Human Genetics) from the University of Liege (Belgium) in 2015 and her doctoral work focused on identifying the genetic aetiologies of intellectual disability in Rwandan patients.

Dr Uwineza’s long aspiration is develop and expand genetic testing in Rwanda population to allow affected families getting genetic diagnosis required to get information about long-term needs, and future family planning.

Project: Genomic and Environmental factors of neurodevelopmental disorders in Rwandan Children

The goal of this project is to identify genomic and environmental factors associated with neurodevelopmental disorders by perfoming whole exome sequencing in affected children, genome wide association studies in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders, then to investigate the infectious and genomic etiology of microcephaly in Rwandan newborns. Our project’s results will alert regional public health stakeholders who may use the information to implement or reinforce existing measures of prevention of microcephaly.

In addition, this project will also allow to develop appropriate assessment tool that suits Rwandan and African system to gather relevant information on various risk factors associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.

 

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Bessie Malila
South Africa

Project: Development of a secure 5G and beyond digital health test bed for modelling telemedicine systems, mHealth applications and smart hospitals.

 

Country of nationality:

Zimbabwe

Research area:

Digital Health

Host Organisation & country:

University of Cape Town and South Africa

Summary

Ineffective healthcare delivery in African countries continues to derail the efforts of advancing health care services to its populace. Dr Bessie Malila’s project goal is to have a platform for evaluating the capabilities of 5G technologies in delivering novel digital health applications and services such as real-time transfer of large health data files, normal/robotic surgery aided by augmented/virtual reality, virtual clinics; evaluating models of designed for rural and remote communities; and modelling 5G smart hospitals which will revolutionize healthcare delivery in Africa. 

Grantee Description

Dr Bessie Malila is Junior Research Fellow in the Division of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She obtained her Ph.D. in Telecommunications engineering  in 2017 and her doctoral work focused on 5G technologies. From 2017 to date, her research has focused on the application of 5G technologies in Digital Health, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Junior Research Fellow in the Division of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cape Town.

Dr Malila’s passion has been on how communication technologies can be leveraged to aid in addressing the challenge of healthcare delivery in Africa. Through the proposed project, she will investigate the feasibility of delivering digital health applications and services using 5G technologies and evaluating and validating the same on a 5G digital health testbed and also through clinical trials in hospitals and clinics in Cape Town.

Project: Development of a secure 5G and beyond digital health test bed for modelling telemedicine systems, mHealth applications and smart hospitals.

Digital health interventions have proved to be cost-effective and capable of bypassing traditional healthcare infrastructures and national regulations. Concerns over security issues, reliability, and reluctance by governments to integrate digital health interventions with healthcare systems have hampered the development of digital health testbeds. However, this is set to change, driven by the emergence of technologies such as 5G, Blockchain, and X-Road; and the need to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Implementation of digital health testbeds is already underway in other parts of the world, but not in Africa. This project aims to apply novel concepts to develop a secured real-world 5G digital health testbed that will provide a platform for testing and evaluating commercially available mHealth applications and medical devices, originally designed for in-person care. The expected impact of the project is the accelerated translation of research results into practical interventions that can help strengthen African healthcare systems.

 

 

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Bridget Mutuma
Kenya

Project: From plastic waste to low-cost carbon nanoreactors for use in monitoring environmental pollutants and nanoplastics

Research area:

Chemistry

Host Organisation & country:

The University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya

Summary

Plastic pollution continues to steadily rise in most African countries causing major negative impacts on health, environment, and economic development of these countries. The plastics readily degrade into microplastics and nanoplastics which can be ingested by marine organisms, transferred to the soil and ultimately to the human body causing far-reaching health issues. Dr. Mutuma’s project will focus on the conversion of plastic waste into low-cost carbon reactors which can then be coupled with metal oxides, products that can be used to degrade nanoplastics from wastewater aided by light (photocatalysis). These products will also be used to detect toxic compounds in air that are associated with lung diseases and increased mortality rates. The application of plastic waste-derived nanomaterials for waste treatment and detection of toxic compounds is economical and provides a solution for sustainable environmental management, health, and wellbeing. The success of this project will provide a solution for reducing plastic pollution whilst providing affordable carbon-based products and devices.

Grantee Description

Dr. Bridget Mutuma is a Research Associate in the Department of Chemistry, University of Nairobi. She is also an AAS affiliate (Cohort 6) as well as a fellow of the Africa Science Leadership Programme. She has a BSc. degree in Analytical Chemistry from Kenyatta University, (Kenya, 2009), an MSc degree in Material Science and Engineering from Kangwon National University (South Korea, 2013) and a PhD in Chemistry (Nanomaterials) from the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa, 2016). Dr. Mutuma has extensive postdoctoral experience in nanomaterials, sensor technology and energy storage systems. Her research interest is in the development of plastic waste-derived carbon nanomaterials/core-shell nanostructures for use in gas sensors, solar cells, supercapacitors and photocatalysis.

Dr Mutuma aspires to be a leading scientist in the area of sensor technology, photocatalysis and solar energy conversion as she seeks to provide solutions for mitigating plastic and air pollution through innovation and infrastructure development in Africa.

Project: From plastic waste to low-cost carbon nanoreactors for use in monitoring environmental pollutants and nanoplastics

The nanoplastics project aims to assess the distribution of microplastics and nanoplastics from selected cities and coastal ecosystems in Kenya. The plastics and microplastics from the selected areas will be converted into low-cost carbon nanomaterials using environmentally friendly routes. The utilization of plastic waste is an economical way of waste recycling whilst producing value-added materials for sustainable consumption of materials. The use of these carbon nanomaterials (nanoreactors) as catalysts will be applied in the degradation of organic pollutants and nanoplastics providing a platform for decreasing plastic pollution in the cities. The applied holistic strategy will create job opportunities as well as human capacity building through nanotechnology training of postgraduate students. The nanomaterials generated will also be applied in the sensor technology to detect pollutants in the air thus addressing key global environmental challenges. The project will contribute to the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based and innovation-led continent.

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Celimphilo Shakes
Swaziland

Project: Harnessing Plant Biotechnology Techniques for the Upliftment of Smallholder Agripreneurs in Eswatini

Research Area:

Plant Biotechnology

Host Organisation and Country:

University of Eswatini (UNESWA) – Eswatini

Summary

African countries continue to face shortages of vegetables and fruits leading to high importation. In order to reduce this importation, intensified domestic production is essential to cushion prices of fruits and vegetables during the post Covid-19 pandemic. The subsistent low technology mode of fruit and vegetable production can be stimulated through the application of plant biotechnology production techniques to enhance smallholder agriculture productivity. Dr. Celimphilo’s research will investigate how plant biotechnology techniques can be harnessed to enhance smallholder agripreneurs.

Grantee Description

Dr. Celimphilo Shakes Mavuso is a Lecturer in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Eswatini in the Kingdom of Eswatini. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Plant Science from National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST), Taiwan in 2017 after successfully conducting field and laboratory experiments focusing on genetic diversity analysis of Jatropha curcas L. and improvement using plant tissue culture techniques to support the productivity initiatives of the biodiesel industry in Taiwan.

The plant biotechnology project by Dr. Celimphilo Shakes Mavuso aims to fully utilize plant tissue culture and available equipment from the University of Eswatini, Horticulture Department in integrating its activities to boost rural production of clean planting materials of clonally propagated and micro propagated plants. In the long term the project aims to support and encourage Eswatini’s smallholder farmers participation commercially through reduced high quality seedlings costs.

Project: Harnessing Plant Biotechnology Techniques for the Upliftment of Smallholder Agripreneurs in Eswatini

The seedling production project will delve into the prioritization and promotion of plant tissue cultured vegetable seedling production and supply to Eswatini smallholder vegetable and fruit farmers. The Principal Investigator (PI) will promote the adoption and use of technological tunnel production which uses smart agriculture practices like automated scheduled irrigation. In the long term the project will also focus on development of science of both genetic reserve and on in situ conservation while ensuring that its implementation is sensitive to the needs of local communities and is also linked to the requirements of the germplasm user community specifically in native seed supply and re-introduction of endangered and extinct plant species that support human and animal health. The project will also look into floriculture improvement in Eswatini and focus on micro propagation of local flower species for commercial production and export. Through the project, UNESWA will promote establishment of certified commercial plant tissue culture laboratories in Eswatini.

 

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Charles Ndawula
Uganda

Project: Development of Theileria parva transmission blocking universal vaccines: toward control of East Coast fever cattle-disease

Research area:

Anti-tick and tick-pathogen transmission-blocking recombinant protein-based vaccines

Host Organisation & country:

National Livestock Resources Research Institute, National Agricultural Research Organization, Uganda.

Summary

Ticks continue to be a major reservoir and vector of a broad range of pathogens that cause diseases in animals in Africa. In this study, Dr Ndawula is keen on East Coast fever (ECF), a devastating disease affecting cattle in Africa. Dr Ndawula’s research aims to develop recombinant protein-based vaccines with a potential to block the ECF-pathogen development and/or transmission in ticks.

Grantee Description

Dr Ndawula Charles is an ARISE fellow and currently a Researcher affiliated to the Vaccinology program of the National Livestock Resources Research Institute, under the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda.

In 2019 he obtained his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Federal University of Rio Grade do Sul, Center of Biotechnology, Porto Alegre Brazil.  His Ph.D. research work was focused on developing cocktail protein-based vaccines with potential to cross-protect cattle against multiple tick species infestation, which is a common problem in Africa.

Dr Ndawula’s long-term aspiration is to develop alternative tools for control of vectors and vector-borne diseases that affect livestock and or humans. Currently, his focus is on developing recombinant vaccines that interfere ticks and their ability to transmit pathogens to humans and/or animals. He also aims to train and inspire Laboratory Technicians and young scientists from Uganda and Africa at large, as well as to contribute to establishment of a better tick research environment in Uganda.

Project: Development of Theileria parva transmission blocking universal vaccines: toward control of East Coast fever cattle-disease

East Coast fever (ECF) is caused by Theileria parva which is transmitted to the cattle during blood-feeding of the brown ear ticks (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus). Although ECF is devastating, over time field cattle (e.g., Zebu, Boran, Ankole) and buffalo native to Africa acquire immunity against tick infestation and ECF. Therefore, this project aims to identify tick and ECF-pathogen (T. parva) proteins that induce immune protection in cattle and buffalo. The protein gene-coding sequences will be used for developing recombinant proteins which will be mixed with adjuvant and administered to cattle. The vaccines will act by inducing antibodies that will neutralize the ECF-pathogens in cattle and ticks, hence blocking their transmission and development. And those that affect the tick feeding. The vaccines will significantly contribute to reduction of ECF and ECF-pathogen infected ticks and the overall tick population, hence contributing to control of ECF toward increased livestock production. Because the vaccines are not infective, and are based on conserved immunogens, they could cross-protect against all ECF-pathogen strains, hence applicable to all ECF affected areas.

 

 

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Christian Isalomboto
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Project: Antimicrobial biogenic nanocomposite formulations from banana and plantain plants (Musa spp.)

Research area:

Nanotechnology, Formulation and Medicinal Chemistry

Host Organisation & country:

University of Kinshasa, D.R. Congo

Summary

Bananas and plantain are one of the most important staple foods worldwide, and their plantations are essentially based in tropical areas and rainforests throughout Africa, thus playing a crucial role in food security as an important component of the local diet in many countries. Being perennial plants that replace themselves, banana and plantain plants generate huge waste biomass that is currently explored as fertilizers and animal feeds to avoid harmful ecological effects.

Dr Nkanga’s research sets out to exploit banana and plantain waste as valuable sources of medically relevant chemical products. The project aims to use and implement green nanoengineering tools to transform bananas waste into new products that can effectively kill microbes for sanitization of surfaces and wound/burn healing.

Grantee Description

Dr Christian I. Nkanga is a SACI Postgraduate Medal awardee (2017), Novartis Next Generation Scientist (2018), DST/NRF Innovation awardee (2017, 2020), BEBUC scholar (2015-2019) and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at University of Kinshasa, D.R. Congo.

He obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry at Rhodes University (South Africa) in 2019, and his doctoral research focused on nanoparticles for antimicrobial drug delivery – thesis titled: “pH-Responsive Liposomal Systems for Site-Specific Pulmonary Delivery of Anti-Tubercular Drugs”. In 2020, Dr Nkanga undertook postdoctoral research in the Department of Nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego (USA), where he worked on plant virus nanotechnology for development of biomedical nanoparticles as COVID-19 vaccines and nanomedicines against cancers.

Dr Nkanga’s sight is to explore the African natural wealth to seek for and implement new materials that can be used to make high-value nanoparticles for medical applications. He aims to advance nanotechnology in Africa, train young African minds in nanoscience, and conduct cutting-edge and translational research and product development to improve human health and simultaneously prepare Africa to become one of the leading continents for nanomedicines raw materials supply.

Project: Antimicrobial biogenic nanocomposite formulations from banana and plantain plants (Musa spp.)

The project objective is to formulate biogenic nanoparticles (NPs) from Musa plants waste into micelles made from extracted plant metabolites for enhanced antimicrobial activities, tackling broad spectrum microbes, microbial resistance and fighting disease spreads. Biogenic synthesis from plants has already been established, but what the scientific community has not yet capitalized upon is the fact that naturally occurring self-assemblies can entrap biogenic nanoparticles to yield composite formulations. This composite will be easily formulated as disinfectant/antiseptic topical dosage forms; and for dermatological applications (e.g., wound healing). In addition, the project aims to elucidate and exploit the molecular composition of biogenic nanoparticles and implement nanoengineering processing as a bioprospecting approach for green discovery of new naturally occurring drugs and important biomolecules, such as proteins and carbohydrates that could be explored for various applications from across drug delivery, dietetics to textile industry.

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Dacquin Muhandwa
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Project: Investigating factors associated with Ebola virus disease outcome in patients receiving monoclonal antibody therapies

Research area:

Viruses and infectious diseases

 

Host Organisation & country:

Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale, D.R.Congo

Summary

The Ebola virus’ high transmissibility and the limited knowledge about its aetiology makes it one of the most dangerous viruses causing a dramatic haemorrhagic disease with a high mortality rate in some African countries. Dr. Kasumba’s research will investigate how the Ebola virus overcomes our immune system and counter-acts recently approved treatments. 

Grantee Description

Dr. Dacquin Kasumba is an ARISE fellow and a Lead Immunologist at the Institut National de Recherche Biomedical (INRB) in D.R.Congo. He obtained his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Immunology from Kyoto University (Japan) in 2017. His doctoral work focused on clarifying and exploiting immune responses against respiratory viruses such as Influenza H5N1.

Dr Kasumba's long-term objectives are to establish, in DRC, a highly specialized and equipped molecular and cellular immunology niche that will allow profound investigations of zoonosis or pathogens with zoonotic potentials to better understand, treat and prevent infectious diseases through adapted diagnostics tools, therapies and vaccines. Doing this also includes training young African scientists. As a result, it is expected that such an endeavour will help shape national and continental policies on infectious diseases and health.

Project: Investigating factors associated with Ebola virus disease outcome in patients receiving monoclonal antibody therapies

Since 1976, Ebola virus diseases (EVD) have sporadically emerged in Africa. Over four decades, there have been more than twenty-five outbreaks with the majority being in central Africa, particularly in D.R.Congo. Recent years have seen an increased frequency of emergence of this disease of zoonotic origin. EVD is highly contagious and deadly, hence its heavy toll on local communities and economies.

With its high death rate, EVD was considered a fatality until recent discoveries of neutralizing monoclonal antibody therapies. These EBOV-specific therapies have a strong capacity to neutralize the virus and cure the disease in a significant number of diseased patients or subjects, but not all.

We hypothesized that virus intrinsic factors can “reshuffle” the immune response of infected hosts, thereby remodelling immune protection in some patients, and leading to treatment failure in some patients. We will evaluate viral/host (patient) factors determining the outcome of the disease (succumbed/survived). As a result, this project will drive the improvement of recently proposed and approved EVD treatments (monoclonal antibodies) to allow the saving of more, if not all patients. This project will also improve our understanding of EVD thereby enhancing our ability to elucidate the zoonotic causes of this microbe.

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Edem Mahu
Ghana

Project: Oyster Shell Models for Hindcasting Holocene Environmental Conditions in Equatorial Atlantic Coastal Waters of Africa

Research area:

Marine Paleoenvironments

Host Organisation & country:

University of Ghana, Ghana

Summary

Oyster populations in Africa have declined significantly over the last five decades with chances of the fishery collapsing if the cause of the decline is not understood and addressed. The growth of oysters is dependent on temperature, salinity, and the pH of their environment. Any change in these conditions is likely to affect their growth and reproduction. The project aims to understand past changes in the temperature, salinity, and pH regimes of the habitat of the West African Mangrove oyster to reconstruct their past environment and to inform a sustainable future for African inshore fisheries.

Grantee Description

Dr. Edem Mahu is a Royal Society Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences of the University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Oceanography (Biogeochemistry) from the University of Ghana in 2014. Her postdoctoral research focuses on understanding past and present climatic and non-climatic factors driving C. tulipa population declines in the Gulf of Guinea and propose ways to improve its resilience and adaptive capacity to these stressors.

Dr. Mahu’s long-term aspiration is to be a leader in the field paleoenvironment research in Africa, develop the capacity of African scientists in this field and unleash the potential of this powerful tool to address important challenges in the fields of ecology, biology, and conservation.

Project: Oyster Shell Models for Hindcasting Holocene Environmental Conditions in Equatorial Atlantic Coastal Waters of Africa

Oyster shell chemistry is a powerful tool for reconstructing past changes in their environment. The δ18O and δ13C composition of their shell can be used to decipher past environmental salinity, temperature, and pH. However, before isotope-based techniques are applied to any archaeological material, it is necessary to understand how reliably modern representatives of the respective species record their environment, to quantify offsets to generalized isotopic equilibrium. This information is completely lacking for the C. tulipa. This major gap limits the utilization of C. tulipa Sclerochemistry in paleoenvironmental research, which is important for managing its fisheries, mitigating climate change, and broadening our understanding of past and evolving human-environment relationships. This project will provide understanding into the controls on δ18O and δ13C of modern shell carbonate of the C. tulipa, to quantify offsets to isotopic equilibrium. Results will be used to derive vital information such as growth patterns/rates and reconstruct past environmental regimes of the C. tulipa and other marine resources to inform a sustainable future for African inshore fisheries.

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Eltayb Abdellatef
Sudan

The Project title: MetaGenomics-Led Harnessing of the African Orphan Cereals-Rhizosphere-Microbiota for Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa (AfCerRhMic)

Research area:

Plant Biotechnology

Host Organisation & country:

National Centre for Research, Sudan

Summary

The demand for alternative and enhanced food production mechanisms to sustain the growing African population has led to the increased manufacture of synthetic N-fertilizers and thus, contributing heavily to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Dr Abdellatef’s research aims to establish an eco-friendly production system for indigenous African Cereals (Sorghum and Pearl Millet) through developing efficient nutrient uptake cultivars/ability of N-fixation and replacing the N-fertilizers by cereals-specific bio-fertilizers that contain active plant-beneficial microbes.

Grantee Description

Dr Abdellatef is a scientist at the Commission for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, National centre for Research, Sudan. He obtained his PhD from the Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany in 2015 and has more than 25 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals (+1080 citations).

He is actively contributing to harnessing the applications of advanced biotechnology for meeting agricultural development challenges, utilization and conservation of plant genetic resources including advanced molecular biology techniques in a wide range of crops (Barley, Maize, Sesame and Chickpea). He contributes strongly to teaching biosciences, supervision and mentoring of postgraduate and undergraduate students.

The Project title: MetaGenomics-Led Harnessing of the African Orphan Cereals-Rhizosphere-Microbiota for Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa (AfCerRhMic)

The impact of climate change on agriculture, the food system, and the macro economy, is expected to be immediate, negative, and devastating in SSA than the global average. This is caused by the prevailing environmental conditions, less diversified and poor rural economies, and the low level of agricultural development despite the sector's importance in generating export revenues and income. The AfCerRhMic project aims to reduce the GHG emissions from agricultural activities using innovative technologies to improve the nutrients uptake efficiency and N-fixation ability of the African Orphan Cereals.

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Emna Harigua
Tunisia

Project: BIND: Bioinformatics and artificial intelligence for Infectious Diseases drug discovery research platform

Research area:

Drug discovery

Host Organisation & country:

Institut Pasteur de Tunis (IPT), Tunisia

Summary

Drug discovery in biomedical research in Africa is characterised with high cost, long duration and complexity. Introducing computational approaches, namely bioinformatics and artificial intelligence results in higher performances, lower costs and faster outcomes of the process. Dr Harigua’s research consists in implementing a platform for computer-aided drug discovery that combines bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, biology and biochemistry to identify novel therapeutics against Leishmaniases and Malaria.

Grantee Description

Dr Emna Harigua is a researcher at the Institut Pasteur de Tunis (IPT) in Tunisia. She did her Ph. D at Institut Pasteur in Paris (France) in collaboration with the Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology and Experimental Pathology (IPT). She defended her Ph. D in 2016 and her doctoral work focused on the identification of novel anti-Leishmania molecules using computer-aided drug discovery approaches, along with the development of novel approaches for protein surface mapping.

Dr Harigua has the long-term aspiration of mastering cutting-edge technologies that combine bioinformatics and artificial intelligence to advance the field of computer-aided drug discovery with a clear focus on infectious diseases of interest to the African communities. She also advocates for women in STEM mentoring and open science.

Project: BIND: Bioinformatics and artificial intelligence for Infectious Diseases drug discovery research platform

Through the BIND project, Dr Harigua will capitalise on her expertise in bioinformatics, artificial intelligence and drug discovery to deliver novel therapeutics against Leishmaniases and Malaria. A multi-disciplinary platform associating cutting-edge computational technologies, namely bioinformatics, molecular modelling and artificial intelligence to experimental validation of the identified drug candidates will be implemented. The proposed approach aims at enhancing the drug discovery process, making it faster, less costly and more efficient. High throughput virtual screenings will be performed to identify novel inhibitors of key proteins of the parasites and molecular docking simulations will be used to decipher protein-ligand interactions and mechanisms associated with multi-drug resistance. This innovative project is an elegant approach to tackle the need for novel therapeutics against diseases heavily affecting the African continent.

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Etienne Bilgo
Burkina Faso

Project: Innovative vector control strategies using entomopathogenic fungi for safe and reliable control of mosquitoes that transmit malaria and Dengue virus

Research area:

Vector Borne Diseases

Host Organisation & country:

Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS), Burkina Faso

Summary

Malaria continues to pose a serious threat in most African countries because of the spread of insecticide resistance. New biocontrol tools like fungal pathogens of mosquitoes have garnered much recent interest because of their potential to kill mosquitoes through direct contact with them.

Using a combination of laboratory and semi-field experiments, Dr. Etienne Bilgo’s research will aim to operationalize vector control tools based on fungi. In addition, during the project Dr. Etienne will analyse stakeholders’ hopes and concerns about these fungi for malaria and dengue control. The current project will give an opportunity to train postgraduate students, young researchers and vector control officers on emerging biotechnologies for vector control.

Grantee Description

Dr Etienne Bilgo is a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher and the International Wellcome Trust Training Fellow from the Joint Parasitology and Medical Entomology lab of IRSS / Centre Muraz in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. He obtained his Ph.D. in 2018 in Applied Biological Sciences, Medical Entomology.

Dr Bilgo is focusing his research on emerging mosquito control biotechnologies and their integration to the existing arsenal of vector control strategies against Malaria and Dengue. He has presented his works in international conferences and won international Fellowships, awards.

Project: Innovative vector control strategies using entomopathogenic fungi for safe and reliable control of mosquitoes that transmit malaria and Dengue virus

Additional vector control tools are urgently needed to eradicate Malaria, Dengue and other Vector Borne- Diseases (VBD) in Africa. I recently characterized native strains of entomopathogenic fungi (Metarhizium pingshaense) from Burkina Faso. In bioassays, these fungi showed unprecedented virulence and entomopathogenicity against mosquitoes. This work lays a foundation for innovative fungal-based strategies for safe and reliable VBD control. However, several fundamental and applied questions remain about the practical use of these fungi for vector control.

These are:

1) Many of these local fungi were isolated from mosquitoes. What are the specific strategies they use to overcome mosquitoes? This information will help plan how best to deploy these fungi so that they are effective in the long-term.

2) Can these fungal strains be used synergistically with current vector control tools (i.e., chemical insecticides)?

3) Could Metarhizum strains be combined with other emerging vector control strategies e.g., Wolbachia for Dengue virus control?

4) What are the local stakeholder hopes and concerns about the fungal based strategies for Malaria and Dengue control?

Using a combination of classical and novel approaches, Dr. Etienne BILGO will investigate the practical utility of one or more strains of Burkinabe Metarhizium against the vectors of malaria and dengue. The most significant possible outcome of the current project will be a reduction of malaria and Dengue as a result of interrupting transmission of the target human pathogens.

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Nenga Manuel Sacomboio
Botswana

Project: Blood group Polymorphism and Susceptibility to malaria

Research area:  

Malaria

Host Organisation & country:

Instituto de Ciências de Saúde/Universidade Agostinho Neto  (ICISA/UAN), Angola

Summary

Malaria continues to be a public health problem in Africa contributing to the high rates of morbidity and deaths. The research of Prof. Dr. Sacomboio will assess whether certain blood groups are associated with susceptibility and severity in malaria infection.

Grantee Description

Prof. Dr. Sacomboio holds a Ph.D. in Health Sciences from the School of Medicine of the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR) attained in 2017. He is a professor and researcher at the Instituto Superior de Ciências da Saúde/ Universidade Agostinho Neto (ISCISA/UAN). He works on research projects focused on malaria comorbidity and mortality, Malaria Acute Kidney Injury, CKD, Blood group polymorphism and malaria susceptibility, sickle cell anemia and malaria, and other projects.

The long-term aspiration of Prof. Dr. Sacomboio is to continue to discover clinical phenomena of infectious diseases that may be associated with genetic conditions and to help in the discovery of new forms of diagnosis and treatment, based on evidence-based medicine, especially local evidence in Africa. He intends to advance a niche of research on blood group polymorphisms, malaria, and kidney damage and discovers phenomena that may be associated with resistance to treatment, as well as train young African scientists to help conduct scientific research, and create policy public policies, professional changes and improve human health.

Project: Blood group Polymorphism and Susceptibility to malaria

In this project, we intend to evaluate the blood group polymorphism and define the susceptibility and severity profile of Plasmodium. Two study groups will participate in this project (500 individuals without malaria, and 500 individuals with malaria), where we will evaluate blood group polymorphisms (Duffy, ABO, Lewis, Kidd, Kell, RH, sickle cell anemia, and others). With the results of this study, we will be able to track the genetic conditions of the Angolan population involved in the emergence of diseases. Describe polymorphisms in Duffy, ABO, Lewis, Kidd, Kell, RH, sickle cell, and other blood groups that may be associated with resistance or susceptibility to malaria. Assess the frequency of factors that may be protective against Plasmodium infection or that minimize its pathogenicity. In the future, we will carry out in-depth studies on how blood transfusion can be a co-protector or not against Plasmodium infection, especially in women and children under 5 years old, who are more susceptible to Plasmodium infection. With these results, we can strengthen institutional research management and support systems to enable Pan-African research to thrive. We will be supporting the generation of cutting-edge research contributing to the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based, innovation-led continent and the transformation of African lives through science.

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Geoffrey Onaga
Uganda

Project: Harnessing Oryza glaberrima genomic resources for rice disease resistance in a changing climate

Research area:

Plant disease resistance in a changing climate

Host Organisation & country:

Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), Cote d’Ivoire

Summary

Rice is becoming a more significant food crop in Africa; however, drought stress and increased nitrogen fertilizer use to boost rice production intensify the impact of rice blast disease, posing a threat to the region's rice industry and food security. Dr. Onaga’s research will utilize genomic approaches to identify and map rice genomic regions and develop stable markers and breeding lines for resistances to rice blast in a changing climate and crop intensification systems, using African rice species which are adopted to African conditions. In addition, the project will strengthen institutional bioinformatics and molecular biology capabilities.

Grantee Description

Dr. Geoffrey Onaga works at the Africa Rice Center in Cote d'Ivoire as an associate principal scientist in the Genetic Diversity Improvement (GDI) program. His dissertation focused on genomic studies in rice-rice blast interaction at high temperature, and he received his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Georg-August Universität in Göttingen, Germany. His post-doctoral research focused on rice-pathogen interaction and pathogen population biology at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Dr. Onaga's long-term goal is to use molecular biology and bioinformatic approaches to better understand plant biotic and abiotic interactions. He aims to create a research expertise on rice disease mitigation in a changing climate and crop intensification systems, train young African scientists, and conduct research to guide policymakers in making better crop disease management decisions.

Project: Harnessing Oryza glaberrima genomic resources for rice disease resistance in a changing climate

The Plant disease resistance in a changing climate (PDRCC) project that he is embracing aims to combine genomic/bioinformatic approaches to identify stable rice traits for improving rice blast resistance in drought situations under increasing nitrogen fertilizer use. Rice blast is a devastating disease that causes up to 100% rice yield losses in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Inadequate rice cultivars suited to prevent the detrimental impact of nitrogen fertilization on cultivar resistance compromises improving cultivar resilience to rice blast in the region. The African rice species, Oryza glaberrima, is adapted to SSA and is a rich source of genes for biotic and abiotic stress resistance. There have been no genomic studies on O. glaberrima critical traits to mitigate the combined effect of rice blast, drought, and nitrogen fertilization, even though the influence of drought and nitrogen fertilization on plant-pathogen interaction has been investigated. By bringing together bioinformaticians, breeders, and plant pathologists, this project will generate new insights on rice-rice blast interaction, develop new resistant breeding lines, build capacity, and broaden our collaboration, all of which are critical for accelerating rice breeding and ensuring rice production sustainability in SSA in the face of climate change.

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George Chimowa
Zimbabwe

Project: Advanced Nanomaterials for disease diagnosis using human breath

Research area:

Nanomaterials

Host Organisation & country:

Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Botswana.

Summary

Highly infectious diseases like Tuberculosis (TB) and other pulmonary diseases continue to be the leading causes of death in many African countries despite the availability of drugs for treatment. This is because in many cases the diagnosis is done late.  Dr Chimowa’s research will investigate the application of advanced nanomaterials as gas sensors of vapours in human breath as an alternative fast and non-invasive technology for rapid diseases diagnosis.

Grantee Description

Dr George Chimowa is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology, in Botswana. He obtained his Ph.D. in Physics, from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2015, where he studied the quantum AC transport of Nanomaterials. He went on to do two post-doctoral fellowships at CSIR and CNRS in South Africa and France respectively.

Dr Chimowa’s long-term aspiration is to continuously expand and exploit new nanoscience to develop technologies that solve global problems in the medical field. His hope is that the current technology being developed can be extended to future viral disease diagnosis. He aims to advance this research of disease diagnosis and monitoring using human breath and will in the process train young African scientists and conduct research informing policy decisions to improve human health.

Project: Advanced Nanomaterials for disease diagnosis using human breath

This project aims at developing a new class of carbon-based nanomaterials and their composites that will be used as resistive gas sensors of volatile organic compounds that are found in human breath. Human breath is known to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) some of which are biomarkers of specific diseases. By identifying these VOCs, Dr Chimowa hopes to be able to develop an alternative technique for disease diagnosis that is rapid and non-invasive. This technology will in the long term lower the health budgets of most Southern African countries that have a high TB burden.

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Getachew Tesfaye Beyene
Ethiopia

Project: Enhancing diagnosis of acute meningitis in meningitis belt resource-limited setting, Ethiopia

Research area:

Meningitis

Host Organisation & country:

Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia

Summary

Meningitis remains a major health concern in Africa because of wrong diagnosis leading to wrong treatment. Dr Getachew’s research is focused on enhancing the diagnosis of acute meningitis through developing resources, and time-saving molecular diagnostic tools that are based on a relatively easy-to-collect blood sample to replace the technically difficult and invasive cerebrospinal fluid sample.

Grantee Description

Dr. Getachew Tesfaye Beyene is an ARISE-PP fellow and researcher in the Bacterial and Viral Diseases Research Directorate of the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), Ethiopia. Getachew obtained his Ph.D. in Medicine and Health Sciences from the University of Oslo, Norway in 2017. His doctoral work focused on Meningococcal DNA repair and transformation. He elucidated the link between the Neisserial DNA repair and DNA transformation mechanism and contributed to a novel understanding of meningococcal genome instability and antigenic variation.

Dr. Getachew’s long-standing aspiration is to improve patient management by enhancing diagnostics and surveillance of acute meningitis through developing resources and time-saving molecular diagnostic tools suitable for point-of-care testing and conducting research informing policy decisions to improve human health.

Project: Enhancing diagnosis of acute meningitis in meningitis belt resource-limited setting, Ethiopia

In this meningitis project, Dr Getachew aims to conduct the surveillance of the prevalence of meningitis and address the changing epidemiology of the aetiology of meningitis since the introduction of the vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis serogroups-A. Develop multiplex PCR-based kits for diagnosing bacterial and viral meningitis suitable for local use. Alleviate the need for lumbar puncture by providing evidence for the use of blood instead of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for the diagnosis of meningitis. Further Dr. Getachew uses metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches to investigate previously unaddressed pathogens of meningitis and resistance gene profiling, and the transcriptional aspects of three central elements of meningitis (pathogens, microbiome, and host) to characterize putative mechanisms by which pathogens manipulate microbiota, and host immune response to facilitate infection, respectively. Dr Getachew also explores new biomarkers with the potential for differential diagnosis of meningitis and putative targets for novel adjunctive therapies using proteomics.

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Gift Mehlana
Zimbabwe

Project: Water stable porous Metal Organic Frameworks as host materials for biological catalysts in carbon dioxide conversion to methanol

Research area:

Crystal Engineering and Supramolecular Chemistry

Host Organisation & country:

Midlands State University, Zimbabwe

Summary

Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuel to produce energy is causing the greatest environmental concerns such as climate change and global warming in most African countries. Dr Mehlana’s research seeks to use enzymes housed in porous materials to capture and repurpose carbon dioxide emitted from power plants to produce methanol. Apart from the clear environmental and health advantages to be realized, there are economic benefits promised because methanol is a clean burning fuel suited to the infrastructure currently available to emerging economies.

Grantee Description

Dr Gift Mehlana is a Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Sciences at Midlands State University in Zimbabwe. He obtained his PhD at the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 2014.

His doctoral work focused on developing new porous material for chemical sensing. Dr Mehlana is the President of the Zimbabwe Chemical Society and Secretary of the African Crystallographic Association whose aim is to promote science and improve lives of the Africans through crystallography. Dr Mehlana’s research will focus on developing new materials for applications in catalysis, sensing and drug delivery.

Project: Water stable porous Metal Organic Frameworks as host materials for biological catalysts in carbon dioxide conversion to methanol

The methanol economy is vital to addressing growing global needs for improved energy  storage whilst reducing carbon emissions. Research into utilizing carbon dioxide to produce methanol under heterogeneous conditions has focussed on Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 composite catalysts. These use high-temperatures around 200 to 320 °C and pressures of 5 to 10 MPa, making catalyst structure difficult to control. Natural enzymatic processes which have undergone years of evolution can be exploited to produce methanol from carbon dioxide. This research seeks to use natural enzymes confined in a controlled chemical environment to convert CO2 captured by metal-organic frameworks into methanol. While enzymes are prone to changes in pH, temperature which limits their application in industrial processes, metal-organic frameworks provide a platform which prevents the enzymes from unfolding making them highly active and applicable for industrial applications under harsh environments.

 

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Grace Jopaul Loubota Panzou
Republic of Congo

Project: Quantifying impacts of human-induced disturbances on biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships in Central Africa

Research area:

Tropical forest ecology

Host Organisation & country:

Marien Ngouabi University, Republic of Congo

Summary

Tropical forests in Africa contain a high biodiversity, play key roles in global carbon cycle, and deliver crucial ecosystem services for local people and the global community. A better understanding of the functioning of these ecosystems will strengthen the basis for effective management, conservation, and restoration. Dr Loubota Panzou's research will evaluate whether changes in biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services will vary by type of disturbance, and whether these changes alter trajectories of degradation and/or recovery, and resilience to disturbance in Central Africa.

Grantee Description

Associated researcher to laboratory of biodiversity and ecosystem and environment management at the Marien Ngouabi University in the Republic of Congo, Dr Grace Jopaul Loubota Panzou is a forest ecologist interested in understanding the functioning of tropical forests across spatial and temporal scales. He obtained his PhD in forest ecology and management from Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (Liege University) in 2018. His research work focused on tree allometry in tropical forests from Central Africa to pantropical scale.

Dr Loubota Panzou’s long-term studies are to expand new methodologies for the quantitative modelling of land-use change trajectories in tropical forests. He aims to deliver understanding of how human--induced disturbances affect biodiversity-ecosystem service relationships in Central Africa, contributing to conceptual framework developed by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Project: Quantifying impacts of human-induced disturbances on biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships in Central Africa

Central African forests form the second largest continuous block of tropical forests in the world with a substantial biodiversity and a multitude of provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services to human populations. Despite their important role, they are threatened from a wide range of disturbances (e.g., logging, slash and burn agriculture, …) that induce an irreversible and drastic biodiversity loss with major ecological consequences. The project aims to quantify the impacts of human-induced disturbances on biodiversity–ecosystem functions relationships in three forest allocations (undisturbed forest, selectively logged forests and clear-cut secondary forests) of two research areas contrasted by climate in Central Africa. Using three data fusion approach employing the field ecological, socio-economical, and remote sensing data, this study is framed around three research objectives. First, we will assess perceptions of the supply and the use of ecosystem services by local populations, and its determinants and sustainability. Second, we will examine biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships in response to the underlying environmental determinants. Third, we will estimate the recovery dynamic and time scales of biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services. The integrated assessment of ecosystem services in combining social, ecological, and economic approaches, will offer new important perspectives for forest management to promote the biodiversity conservation in tropical forests.

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Violet Kayamba
Zambia

Project: Gastric cancer in Zambia: A comprehensive evaluation of epidemiology and mechanisms of carcinogenesis

Research area:

Gastrointestinal cancers

Host Organisation & country:

University of Zambia School of Medicine, Zambia

Summary:

Cancer of the stomach continues to cause many deaths in Africa in due to limited resources for early case detection of its major causative infections. Dr Kayamba’s research will investigate the major cause of cancer of the stomach in Africa. The research will also involve testing a new diagnostic tool which is designed for use in low resource settings.

Grantee Description

Dr Violet Kayamba is a senior lecturer at the University of Zambia School of Medicine, and she conducts her research with the Tropical Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group (TROPGAN). She obtained her PhD in 2019 in medical and health sciences incl Neurosciences. Her main research interest is in upper gastrointestinal cancers and as an early career researcher, she has published several peer reviewed original articles highlighting different facets of these cancers in Zambia.

Dr Violet’s aim is to mentor a cohort of young researchers who will subsequently contribute to the growth of high standard research outputs.

Project: Gastric cancer in Zambia: A comprehensive evaluation of epidemiology and mechanisms of carcinogenesis

Gastric cancer (GC) is a leading cause of cancer-related mortality, but there is an uncertainty surrounding it, designated as the African Enigma (AE). Proposed 30 years ago, the enigma suggested that GC incidence in Africa was low despite a high prevalence of its main risk factor, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. There are controversies surrounding the AE with some scientists labelling it as a medical myth while others believing it to be accurate. If it is true, then H. pylori and its African human host have co-adapted to commensalism. However, if it is an artefact of inadequate data, it needs to be disproved.

The project will determine H. pylori prevalence across Zambia using archival blood samples collected from a population-based survey, and estimate GC prevalence in an unprecedented way so as to determine if the AE is an illusion. To provide further insights into possible gastric carcinogenic pathways, microbiome changes related to GC and premalignant lesions will also be studied.

Lastly, the project will involve testing of a novel diagnostic tool, the Sangui-filum (S-filum), a simple tool that can be employed in low resource settings to identify individuals with gastric mucosal lesions that need referral for endoscopy. With this project, Dr Kayamba will build a research team supported by experienced local and international collaborators, simultaneously generating data of international significance in a quest to understand gastric carcinogenesis.

 

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Graeme Hoddinott
South Africa

Project: Optimizing Care for Adolescents with Tuberculosis: A Pilot Implementation Study in Namibia (OASIS-PN)

Research area:

Tuberculosis

Host Organisation & country:

University of Namibia, Namibia

Summary

Despite the continuous health burden of Tuberculosis in Africa there is almost no literature on the Tuberculosis experiences of Adolescents and Young People [AYP] or how best to offer this group which is at the highest risk, Tuberculosis services. The OASIS-PN project will fill this critical gap by working with AYP to understand their experiences and co-develop mechanisms and strategies to optimise TB services using a person-centred approach.

Grantee Description

Dr Graeme Hoddinott is a Senior Researcher and the Socio-behavioural Science Lead at the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He obtained his PhD in Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2019 and his doctoral work focused on developing a conceptual model of school-based HIV prevention premised on community dialogue and ‘shifting the narrative’.

Dr Hoddinott now works to understand how best to deliver acceptable, family-oriented Tuberculosis (and related disease) services for children, adolescents, and their caregivers. He is passionate about creating opportunities for emerging African scientists through a focus on research method rigor, mentorship, and opportunities for participation.

Project: Optimizing Care for Adolescents with Tuberculosis: A Pilot Implementation Study in Namibia (OASIS-PN)

In the OASIS-PN project we are working toward making TB services for adolescents and young people (aged 10-24-years-old) better. We want adolescents and young people who need TB services to get highest quality care – delivered in ways that are convenient, friendly, and acceptable. We plan two cross-cutting capacity-building activities: Firstly, creating local ‘advisory groups’ of young people to help us interpret the research project data and improve TB services together. Secondly, we will fund a group of PhD-level social and behavioural scientists to use the OASIS-PN project experience as future academic leaders at the University of Namibia. Building on this platform, we will implement three complementary research projects to understand: (1) the experiences of adolescents and young people who are receiving TB services, (2) how TB services for adolescents and young people are organised at health facilities and in communities, and (3) adolescents’ and young people’s preferences and priorities for making their TB services better. Working with community members and the comprehensive, synergistic research projects will set the agenda for improving TB services for adolescents and young people in Namibia and elsewhere in southern Africa. 

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Hafeez Yusuf Hafeez
Nigeria

Project: Development of Efficient and Robust Mxene Based Photocatalysts for Production of Solar Fuel (Hydrogen) via Photocatalytic Water Splitting

Research area:

Solar Energy

Host Organisation & country:

Federal University Dutse, Nigeria

Summary

Energy crisis and resultant environmental pollution continues to be a major hindrance to the development of African countries thus, this research focuses mainly on providing an alternative source of fuel apart from the conventional fossil fuel. Dr Hafeez proposes solar fuel (Hydrogen) generation via water-splitting as an ideal future fuel. Dr. Hafeez’s research will generate energy via simple materials including photocatalyst, water and solar light.

Grantee Description

Dr. Hafeez Yusuf Hafeez is an experienced researcher and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Physics, Federal University Dutse, Jigawa state, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD in Nanoscience from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, India in 2018 and his doctoral work focused on the Design and development of solar-light driven organic/inorganic hybrid materials (especially metals, metal-oxide based catalysts) for photocatalytic solar fuel (Hydrogen) production.

Dr Hafeez’s long term aspiration is to become a research Professor at Federal University Dutse with a well-established laboratory that will train many researchers. He is highly interested in research, especially catalyst design for solar-driven water splitting, photoelectrochemical applications and other related fields. He expects to publish results from this project in high-impact journals. He also aims at publishing articles for science dissemination and participate in international conferences to exchange knowledge and to develop national and international collaboration. He aspires to create a large community of researchers in my area of research in Europe and the world at large.

Project: Development of Efficient and Robust Mxene Based Photocatalysts for Production of Solar Fuel (Hydrogen) via Photocatalytic Water Splitting

Advancing high-performance, inexpensive photocatalysts for solar fuel production is an urgent goal. MXene supported heterojunction photocatalysts (MHPs) are a promising class of emerging materials, however the current limitation of MHPs remains as poor charge separation efficiency, resulting in low photocatalytic activity. Herein, we will design and develop novel MHPs by several methods including, hydrothermal, precipitation, ultrasonic, and wet impregnation, for efficient solar-driven photocatalytic H2 production. The prepared photocatalysts will be characterized by standard techniques (such as XRD, Raman, FTIR, XPS, SEM, TEM, BET, PL spectra, UV-vis DRS spectra) and optimized for H2 production. In parallel, model systems of the MHPs, prepared as thin film photoelectrodes will be scrutinized with perturbation electrochemical techniques in order to gain deep insight into the charge carrier dynamics and direct the improvement of the MHPs. This synergy will enable significant advance in the maximum H2 production activity and Solar-to- Hydrogen (STH) efficiency.

Moreover, most of the photocatalytic activities are performed using fluorescent lamp, which could only provide opportunities for photocatalysis application in an indoor environment. Whereas the method to be adopted in this research will give access to proper utilization of the solar light in the photocatalytic activity that could be beneficial to our continent and country (Nigeria), as Nigeria is an equatorial climate country where abundant and clean solar energy is available for water splitting to produce hydrogen. Thus, this project will establish that coupling MXene with semiconductor heterojunction materials can open a new approach to fabricate inexpensive and noble-metal-free materials for sustainable solar fuel (Hydrogen) production.

 

 

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Hajar El Hammouti
Morocco

Project: Broadband Internet Access for Unconnected and Under-connected areas

Research area:

Wireless Communication and Networking Systems

Host Organisation & country:

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), Morocco

Summary

 A large population of African countries suffers from digital exclusion. The main reason for the digital gap is the low telecommunications investments in the areas where the population income is very low. Therefore, it is important to study novel and practical telecommunication solutions that are adapted to underprivileged regions and come at low costs. In this context, our research project will answer the question: how to provide Internet access to unconnected and under-connected regions quickly and with reduced costs?

Grantee Description

Prof. Hajar El Hammouti works as an Assistant Professor with the School of Computer Science, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Ben Guerir, Morocco. She received her Ph.D. degree in computer science and telecommunications from National Institute of Posts and Telecommunications (INPT) in 2017. Her research interests focus on modelling and optimizing wireless communication systems, including Internet of Things and unmanned aerial vehicles networks.

Prof. Hajar El Hammouti is also interested in the application of machine learning and game theory to the broad area of mobile communications.

Project: Broadband Internet Access for Unconnected and Under-connected areas

Around half of the world's population (i.e., 4 billion people) is living in unconnected or under-connected areas where Internet penetration is very weak or non-existent. Most of this population lives in low-income areas, particularly in Africa, with high illiteracy rates. The traditional communication infrastructure is costly, and operators are not encouraged to invest in network infrastructure in the absence of a viable business model that ensures a return of investment. This results in a vicious cycle: low-income populations cannot pay for Internet access; therefore, they do not have access to e-learning and online job opportunities; hence, they cannot improve their income to attract telecommunications investments. Our project aims at breaking this vicious digital cycle by proposing cost-efficient solutions to operators and telecommunication stakeholders. Our focus is on non-terrestrial telecommunication systems. In fact, flying infrastructures (e.g., high aerial platforms, low earth orbit satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.) have been considered as a promising technology to ensure a large coverage at low costs. In our project, we will study the performance of non-terrestrial networks (NTN) against alternative solutions. We will identify use cases where NTN outperform terrestrial networks. We will also propose intelligent resource allocation approaches for NTN to further improve their performance and reduce the costs. We will give particular attention to energy efficiency as we will propose mechanisms to reduce the energy consumption for NTN. Finally, we will provide an economic analysis to evaluate the performance of NTN for multiple use cases and propose incentive mechanisms to encourage the stakeholders to invest in underprivileged areas. In sum, our project will provide a clear roadmap to accelerate Internet access in Africa.

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Hoby Razafindrakoto
Madagascar

Project: Earthquake Monitoring and hazard evaluation In Madagascar (EARTHMOVING)

Research area:

Earth Science

Host Organisation & country:

Institut et Observatoire de Géophysique d’Antananarivo (IOGA), Madagascar

Summary

Earthquakes continue to be contributing factors to Africa’s natural disasters causing immense economic and human losses related mostly to the destruction off infrastructure. Dr Razafindrakoto’s project aims to enhance scientific capacity in seismological research and engineering seismology in Madagascar through improved earthquake monitoring and state-of-the-art seismic hazard analysis.

Grantee Description

Dr Hoby Razafindrakoto is currently a research scientist at the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), focusing on bridging the gap between computational and engineering seismology. She has been working in various cultural environments in four countries (Madagascar, Saudi-Arabia, New Zealand, and Germany) and has authored 15 peer-reviewed publications addressing problems in seismology, seismic hazard, and seismic risk. She obtained her Ph.D. in Earth Science from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in 2015. Her doctoral research was directed toward quantifying the uncertainty in finite-source inversion using Bayesian inference.

Dr Razafindrakoto’s long-term aspiration is to build a team that has technical and scientific prowess reaching the international level standards and having the capacity to compete in public calls, contribute to scientific activities in international projects and monitor mining areas in regards to seismology.

Project: Earthquake Monitoring and hazard evaluation In Madagascar (EARTHMOVING)

The EARTHMOVING project aims to empower research in earthquake seismology and seismic engineering in Madagascar, as well as to build a foundation for advanced physics-based and rapid post-earthquake assessment from earthquakes in Madagascar and eventually in Africa. Activities within this project are framed around three key work packages: Technology Platform, Sciences & Research, and Capacity Building. In terms of technology platform, the goal is to enhance earthquake monitoring by improving state-of-the-art algorithms to detect and locate events and discriminate between natural and non-natural earthquakes (e.g., quarry blast). In the Sciences & Research topic, the aim is to capitalize on the monitoring developments and the existing data from permanent and temporary seismic stations in Madagascar to achieve a comprehensive seismic hazard analysis accounting for both natural and induced seismicity; a  first step toward managing the risks effectively. Finally, for capacity building, the purpose is to strengthen professional development and ensure a long-term impact on scientific capacity, allowing scientists from Madagascar to be fully      involved and contribute to international scientific projects aiming to understand the solid earth and associated risks.

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Ibrahim Karidio Diori
Niger

Project: “Investigation of local food sources of prebiotics for the prevention and management of moderate acute malnutrition in Niger.”

Research area:           

Nutrition & Health

Host Organisation & country :

Centre de Recherche Médicale et Sanitaire (CERMES)

Summary

Several factors continue to threaten the nutritional status of children under five years in Africa. In addition to this, containment measures adopted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have led to further disruptions in food production and distribution and in humanitarian supply chains. Medically, the commonly used protocol for the management of Acute Malnutrition such as those faced in Africa remains imported fortified blended flours. Dr Karidio will develop a new formulation of microbiota-directed therapeutic flours from local ingredients as an alternative to imported ones.

Grantee Description

Dr Karidio is an ARISE-PP fellow and the Head of the Platform of Immunology and Hæmatology at CERMES in Niger Republic. He obtained his PhD. in Biochemistry from Ege University with a research thesis focused on “Isolation of Anticancer Agents from Microorganisms and Investigation of their Effectiveness”.

Currently, Dr Karidio’s research focuses basically on microbiota targeted nutrition (at all life stages), for sustainable, preventive, maintenance, and correction of health status: Nutrition and Health

Project: “Investigation of local food sources of prebiotics for the prevention and management of moderate acute malnutrition in Niger.”

In 2020, the number of West African children (in general) and those of Niger (in particular) that suffered from malnutrition (Acute malnutrition). In health institutions, moderate acute malnutrition is essentially treated with therapeutic flours (imported at a high cost). Currently, there is a growing body of literature reporting a pivotal role of the microbiota in the nutritional status of infants and children. Feeding infants and children with prebiotic-rich foods would eventually favour a beneficial qualitative and/or quantitative composition of the microbiota characteristic of a healthy status. Dr Karidio is interested in the local production, with local ingredients, of microbiota-directed (prebiotic-rich), therapeutic fours as alternative for imported one.

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Jessica Thorn
Namibia

Project: Future Landscape Optimization for Peri Urban Resilience and ecosystem Health in Africa (FLOURISH)

Research area

Nature based solutions to climate change

Host Organisation & country:

University of Namibia, Namibia

Summary

Recent large scale climate shocks in Africa and other continents have highlighted how biodiversity loss, climate change, urbanization, and structural inequality are converging to threaten planetary health. Dr Thorn’s research will investigate how green infrastructure together with novel planning and governance processes can reduce exposure to flooding, heat, and pollution in some of the most marginal populations and ecosystems in Africa.

Grantee Description

Dr Jessica Thorn is Fellow at University of Namibia and Lecturer in Sustainable Development at the School of Geography at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, prior to which she was a research fellow at the universities of York, Cape Town, Colorado State, and ETH Zurich. Her work broadly concentrates on climate change adaptation, social-ecological systems, biodiversity conservation, the sustainability of mega infrastructure and green transitions in peri urban, smallholder and mountain systems. This work involves participatory scenario planning, ecosystem service assessments, systematic reviews running surveys to compare local perceptions and observed changes.

She obtained her PhD in Zoology from the Biodiversity Institute and Long-Term Ecology and Resource Stewardship Lab at the University of Oxford in 2016, and her doctoral work identified changes in biodiversity, and the use of ecosystem services along climatic gradients in smallholder agroecosystems, Nepal, and Ghana.

Dr Thorn’s long-term aspiration to continue to reimagine innovations in climate resilience for human and non-human species; challenge existing paradigms on peri-urban systems dynamics and future transformations; support capacity building of young African scientists for timely, effective, and scalable delivery; and generate insights to inform settlement upgrading, risk reduction and covid recovery efforts across Africa.

Project: Future Landscape Optimization for Peri Urban Resilience and ecosystem Health in Africa (FLOURISH)

This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness urban green infrastructure innovations by harnessing novel scenario planning, digital satellite technology, and a living lab. FLOURISH will develop a more comprehensive understanding of 1) past and present drivers of change, urban-rural linkages, and desired futures; 2) how different types of urban green infrastructure reduce the severity of multi-hazard exposure to flooding, heat, and pollution; 3) the impact of regenerating urban green infrastructure and how this supports the diffusion of innovations and health; and 4) create systemic solutions that enhance social-ecological benefits with city and private actors through knowledge exchange. This critical and timely study will focus on three cities which constitute the empirical, comparative foundation: Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Madagascar with synthetic archetypal analyses for global impact. Types of urban green infrastructure will include street trees, trees that retain stormwater, parks (public, private), highway verges, swales, channelised rivers, urban agriculture, and gardening (home, communal, roof-top, rain) due to their potential to reduce flood and heat stress. This application represents a clear conceptual advance of understanding regenerative peri-urban systems at scale; moving beyond learning how to study wicked problems to systems-level transformation in three African landscapes.

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Valera Lucena Dias
Mozambique

Project: Evaluation of Eucheumoids cultivation and exploitation in the Southern of Mozambique

Country of nationality:

Mozambique

Research area:

Macroalgae/Seaweeds Biotechnology

Host Organisation & country:

Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Mozambique

Summary

Africa has several macroalgae which are underexploited, yet they are rich resources with wide applications in human and animal nutrition, agriculture, pharmacy, cosmetic, among others. There is need to cultivate certain species of macroalgae and improve the techniques of their large-scale production. Dr Valera and her team will be investigating the sustainability of cultivating and processing macroalgae in the Southern part of Mozambique.

Grantee Description

Dr Valera Dias is a member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), and is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences at Eduardo Mondlane University. She obtained her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Cape Town, where she was focused in Biotechnology, investigating the effect of a probiotic supplemented diet (based in macroalgae and microorganisms) in the immune system abalone, a marine cultivated organism under aquaculture system.

Dr Valera Dias has been studying the potential of biotechnological application of marine macroalgae that occur in the southern of Mozambique. She aims to find some solution that can answer the issues from the rural communities in the coastal zone, such as alternative source of activities and incomes, through the cultivation of certain macroalgae species. She will be conducting a scientific study related to the improvement of cultivation and processing of these species, extraction of bioactive compounds and other potential biotechnological application.

Project: Evaluation of Eucheumoids cultivation and exploitation in the Southern of Mozambique

In this project the cultivation of Kappaphycus alvarezii and Eucheuma denticulatum will be implemented in two different sites in the Southern of Mozambique. The experimental procedure will follow the floating longline method and the cultivation will be deployed in an area of approximately 300 m2. The sample of macroalgae will be harvested at 15-day intervals in order to determine the daily growth rate, morphological characteristics, as well as other relevant aspects, such as epiphyte loads that may decrease production. After 60 days, approximately 80% of the macroalgae will be collected and air dried. Periodic monitoring of environmental conditions and social impacts will be conducted: (1) daily environmental conditions will be evaluated (temperature, salinity, etc); weekly, visit site will be performed to monitor the longline structures; (2) social activities will be record and community consultations will be held to find out people's point of view regarding the project. Meanwhile, workshops and talks will be given to the local communities in order to familiarize them with the importance of macroalgae.  The second part of the project will be concentrated in processing of the biomass in order to identify, extract and process potential product of interest such as carrageenan, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds. The last part of the project will be dedicated to report our finds to the scientific community, to the local communities (involving them, so they can have an alternative income-generating opportunities), and the society in general (so they can accept the products and invest in this activity).

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Thomas Kivevele
Tanzania

Project: Solar–biogas hybrid dryer: an energy efficient and environmentally friendly technology for drying agricultural products

Research area:

Drying technologies

Host Organisation & country:

Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Tanzania

Summary

Post-harvesting loss for cereals and for perishable crops such as fruits and vegetable contribute to food shortages, malnutrition and poverty in Africa. The agricultural produce is wasted not only due to lack of storage and processing facilities, but also due to limited knowledge of processing technologies. Proper drying technologies can reduce post-harvest losses, improve food quality and eradicate poverty. Dr. Kivevele’s research will investigate thermal and drying performance of a novel solar-biogas hybrid dryer; an eco-friendly drying technology.

Grantee Description

Dr Thomas Kivevele is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Materials, Energy, Water and Environmental Sciences (MEWES) at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Tanzania. He obtained his Doctorate Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Thermal Energy Systems) from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), South Africa and his doctoral work focused on experimental optimization of an air source heat pump dryer for drying agricultural products.

Dr. Kivevele has been conducting ground-breaking and diverse research in the field of drying technologies, solar applications (mini/smart grid, stand-alone/solar home systems), biofuels, energy auditing and management. His ambition is to continue to expand and adopt novel and eco-friendly drying technologies in order to combat the problem of post-harvest loss. He aims to advance a research niche on clean drying technologies, train young African scientists, and develop policy briefs to advise decision-makers on how to increase people's well-being by lowering post-harvest losses through drying.

Project: Solar–biogas hybrid dryer: an energy efficient and environmentally friendly technology for drying agricultural products

Due to absence of proper storage and marketing facilities, farmers in African countries are forced to sell their agricultural produces at throw away prices leading to economic losses. Farming in African Countries like Tanzania is dominated by subsistence farmers located in rural areas, mostly not connected to national grid, they use biomass/fuelwood and natural sun for drying. Excessive use of biomass increases CO2 emission, decreases carbon sinks and enhances climate change impacts. Furthermore, improper storage and drying such as open sun drying can cause aflatoxin, dust contamination and dried products become of poor quality. Solar dryers are among promising technologies for proper drying and transition to low carbon emission. Although solar drying technologies have been developed in sub-Saharan Africa, most countries such as Tanzania have experienced limited market penetration due to the need of more research. Nevertheless, most of the developed solar dryers are passive systems which solely depend on the presence of sunlight, it become useless in the absence of sunshine. To facilitate non-sunny drying, this project intends to develop a novel solar-biogas hybrid dryer. Biogas is a renewable fuel made from the decomposition of organic matter like animal manure and food wastes. Biogas system will be employed as a back-up when solar technology is down. The technology will be made using cheaper and readily available local materials. The technology will ensure food security, improve income to farmers while reducing environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Sónia Maria
Swaziland

Project: Smart solutions for water and agriculture to face the Climate Change Crisis in Cabo Verde

Research area:

Instrumentation

Host Organisation & country:

Universidade de Cabo Verde (UNICV), Cabo Verde

Summary

Technological advances in African countries have allowed the innovation of systems and solutions for monitoring the most varied parameters of interest, boosting the Internet of Things and creation of Smart Cities. In this research project, we intend to take advantage of the benefits of technological evolution to develop smart solutions that allow mitigating the effects of climate change in the water and agriculture sector. The research will study the feasibility of using wireless sensor network and what approaches to adopt so that they can have an impact on the water and agriculture sector that allow mitigation and gain resilience in the face of climate change.

Grantee Description

Dr Sónia Semedo is a Professor in the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Cabo Verde, in Cabo Verde. She received her Ph.D. degree in Physics Engineering, specialization in Instrumentation from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, in February 2016. His doctoral work focused on developing and analyzing innovative mechanisms for harvesting energy from different sources to power supply wireless sensor networks.

Dr Semedo’s long-term aspiration is to continuously expand and embrace new approaches for wireless sensor network suitable for African needs and priorities. She aims to advance a research niche on Internet of Things and its applications, encourage young people to pursue research careers, and use research and innovation to improve living conditions.

Project: Smart solutions for water and agriculture to face the Climate Change Crisis in Cabo Verde

In Cape Verde we have experienced several prolonged drought cycles with little or no rainfall, which it directly affects the availability of water for day-to-day activities and services, it becomes mandatory water monitoring for better management and distribution through the population. One approach to accomplish this is using wireless sensor network (WSN) to monitor the parameters and sent it to users for decision making. In this project, we intend to study a feasibility of developing intelligent solutions based on wireless sensor networks that fits to Cape Verde reality and needs. WSN presents several challenges such as security, power supplying, communication range, communication protocols… and in Cape Verde the challenge is even greater because we are an archipelagic country, mountainous where most interesting areas are far from each other and mostly located in rural areas with little infrastructure installed. To prove the feasibility of using WSN, we will explore two case-studies, the monitoring and management of drinking water and the efficient use of water in agriculture. Monitoring water together with weather conditions can provide useful information for defining climate resilience actions. So, based on the results, actions will be proposed to mitigate the effects of climate change in the use of water for consumption and agriculture

 

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Sidy Ba
Mali

Project: Enzymatic biotechnology for nature-based remediation of environmental pollution (ENZYREP)

Country of nationality:

Mali

Research area:

Water Pollution and Remediation

Type of scientist:

Environmental engineering

Host Organisation & country:

National School of Engineers Abderhamane Baba Touré (ENI-ABT), Bamako

Summary

The widespread presence of pharmaceutical products in Africa such as antibiotics and other trace contaminants has raised concerns about their adverse effects for the public health and ecosystems. Under his ARISE-PP grant, Dr Sidy Ba’s research will investigate field application of highly oxidative enzymes as a nature-based solution (NBS) to remove these micropollutants from wastewater and soil, reduce carbon dioxide emission from these matrices, and fertilize soil with enzyme-converted nitrogen.

Grantee Description

Dr Sidy Ba is an Associate Professor at the National School of Engineers Abderhamane Baba Toure (ENI-ABT) of Bamako, Mali and the Founding Head of the Laboratory of Chemical & Environmental Engineering. He earned his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Sherbrooke (Quebec, Canada) under a fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). His research focused on crosslinking enzymes (phenoloxidases) for their insolubilization to remove pharmaceutically active compounds including antibiotics from wastewater.

Dr Ba is committed to training and mentoring young Africans in Sciences, Engineering, Technologies and Innovation, particularly in water sciences and technologies for a cleaner environment in Africa.

Project: Enzymatic biotechnology for nature-based remediation of environmental pollution (ENZYREP)

Most environmental applications of biocatalysts remain confined in laboratory research for academic publications. Dr Ba strongly believes in the feasibility and development of field applications of enzymes as a ground-breaking NBS of environmentally sound techniques and technologies. The ENZYREP project will develop large-scale removal of contaminants of (re)emerging concerns from wastewater such as hospitals and industries, and contaminated soils with trace contaminants. His work will also investigate the reduction of carbon dioxide emission from these matrices, and fertilization of decontaminated soil with enhanced enzyme-converted nitrogen.

 

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Sarobidy Rakotonarivo
Madagascar

Project: An experimental approach to optimizing policy for scaling-up climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Madagascar.

Country of nationality:

Madagascar

Research area:

Nature-based climate solutions

Host Organisation & country:

École Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques, (ESSA-Forêts), Madagascar

Summary

Food insecurity is still a growing concern in most African countries. Most African farmers rely on slash and burn cultivation or rainfed agriculture which makes them especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and leads to land degradation and deforestation. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) such as agroforestry which is the integration of trees into crops can be part of the solution, but adoption remains very low because of several constraints such as high upfront costs and lack of access to information. Dr Rakotonarivo’s project aims to address these constraints by identifying the most effective policy levers for upscaling CSA in Madagascar using an experimental approach (randomized controlled trial and experimental games).

Grantee Description

Dr Rakotonarivo is a research fellow at the Department of Forestry and Environment at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar. She earned a joint PhD degree in Environmental and Development economics from Bangor university and the University of Copenhagen in 2016.

Her research interests lie in the areas of nature-climate interventions in Africa (e.g., forest conservation, restoration, and climate-smart agriculture). She uses a mixed method approach (e.g., quasi-experimental methods and qualitative interviews) to study the political and socio-ecological factors that increase their effectiveness. By identifying what works (and what doesn't) and under what conditions, her research aims to support the design of policies that contribute to the long-term wellbeing of people and nature.  She also has a demonstrated track record of supporting evidence-based policy and working in multistakeholder engagement.

Project: An experimental approach to optimizing policy for scaling-up climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Madagascar.

Agriculture accounts for nearly a quarter of GDP in Africa and is the sector of the economy that is the most vulnerable to climate change. Large-scale land restoration is a key pillar of CSA upscaling, but the current pace of transformation is too slow. There is an urgent need to provide policy makers with empirical evidence on the most effective levers for CSA investments. This project aims to fill such knowledge gap in four novel ways. First, we will run novel and dynamic interactive games to understand any potential disincentives to CSA investments (e.g., risk aversion and unwillingness to engage in collective action). Second, we will undertake one of the first field evaluations (a randomized controlled trial) of the causal effects of unconditional cash transfers and information campaigns combined with targeted training on CSA adoption rate. The game outputs will inform the RCT design and outcomes by examining any potentially confounding mechanism of (non)adoption. Third, this project addresses the underlying mechanisms driving CSA adoption by examining the importance of changes in perceptions of land tenure security, risks, and the CSA practice in explaining the treatment effects. Fourth, the use of unstructured interviews will provide in-depth insights on the conditions and moderating factors that most strongly incentivize CSA adoption. Our mixed-method approach will enable us to isolate the relative importance of credit and increased knowledge in overcoming kinetic hurdles to CSA adoption, across heterogeneity in risk tolerance and perceptions. The findings will ultimately allow targeted investments in CSA in Madagascar and in rainfed Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

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Sandra Jumbe
Malawi

Project: Implementation of a mental health literacy e-curriculum (MHLeC) in Malawi universities

Country of nationality:

Malawi

Research area:

Mental health

 Host Organisation & country:

Millennium University, Malawi

Summary

Mental health knowledge in Africa is still low, whilst stigma and mistreatment towards people with mental health problems remain high, with no specific support for the youth. Dr Jumbe’s research will implement a mandatory mental health education program for students in Malawi universities to address the inadequate mental health support for the youth. The overall aim is to establish youth-centred, accessible and affordable educational support which can promote mental wellbeing of young people in Malawi, despite the country's limited mental health infrastructure and workforce.

Grantee Description

Dr Sandra Jumbe is a health psychologist and senior lecturer in research at Millennium University in the Department of Social & Health Sciences. She is also a health services researcher at Queen Mary University of London. She obtained her doctorate in Health Psychology from UWE Bristol in 2017 and has become an experienced researcher over the years working in both clinical and academic settings in primary care and mental health.

Dr Jumbe’s long term aspiration is to expand understanding of global mental health and related problems e.g., substance use, by advancing research niched on youth mental health in Africa, as well as training fellow young African scientists. Her health psychology background makes her an expert in behavioural science, enabling her to set the foundations for evidence-based work that can inform development of effective interventions, treatments, and policy decisions to improve human health.

Project: Implementation of a mental health literacy e-curriculum (MHLeC) in Malawi universities

This project aims to assess implementation of a mental health literacy (MHL) e-curriculum in universities in Malawi, within a feasibility trial. A key goal of Dr Jumbe’s research is to implement MHL on a large scale in Malawi universities to address the country’s mental health service gap. The high-level aim of this work is to establish youth-centred, accessible and affordable support to mitigate mental illness and increase mental wellbeing of young people in Malawi. Specific activities include:

  • Implementation of the MHL e-curriculum (developed collaboratively with youth and their advocates) in four to eight universities in Malawi within a pragmatic randomised feasibility trial. This trial will assess acceptability of the curriculum in youth friendly spaces (education and community settings), appropriateness of outcome measures and potential impact on MHL
  • An extensive community focused awareness campaign involving youth-centred festivals, radio interviews and social media talks on mental health to normalise mental health conversations outside university settings in both urban and rural communities. Another aspect of this work will focus on translating our mental health resource materials from English to local vernacular to aid inclusivity.

This novel work will address the issue of lacking youth mental health support in the face of inadequate in-country infrastructure and workforce, through provision of quality and accessible learning MHL materials that promote good mental health whilst reducing inequalities around health literacy within Malawi (SDGs 3, 4, and 10)

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Samuel Bunani
Burundi

Project: Development of an Electrochemical Process for Recovery of Nutrients from Liquid Waste Resources (e-Pro4ReNs)

Country of nationality:

Burundi

Research area:

Membrane Technology

Host Organisation & country:

University of Burundi, Burundi

Summary

As populations grow and natural environments become degraded in Africa there is an increasing need for nutrients recovery from wastewater and other aqueous waste streams for use in agriculture. Dr Bunani’s research will work on the development of an integrated system consisting of membrane filtration and an electromembrane process for separation and recovery of nutrients from aqueous liquid waste.

Grantee Description

Dr Samuel Bunani currently works at the Department of Chemistry, University of Burundi.  He obtained his PhD in Analytical Chemistry in 2017 from Ege University, Turkey. Dr Bunani does research in Analytical Chemistry applied to environmental issues.

He is mostly interested in water quality analysis, membrane separation technology (NF and RO) for water reuse, electromembrane processes for wastewater management using electrodialysis (ED) and recovery of valuable chemicals from water using bipolar membrane electrodialysis (BMED). His interest includes inorganic water traces decontamination using ED and ultrapure water production using electrodeionization (EDI).

The future perspective of Dr Bunani is to develop efficient technologies and strategies for safe water supply and clean environment by managing the available water resources and aqueous waste streams. From this liquid waste management, he intends to recover nutrients to supply farmers green fertilizers for soil amelioration.

Project: Development of an Electrochemical Process for Recovery of Nutrients from Liquid Waste Resources (e-Pro4ReNs).

The development of electromembrane process for a sustainable environmental, agricultural and industrialvalorization of bio-liquid waste is a core challenge for a bio-based economy realization. This project aims to design, develop and apply an electromembrane based process to recover organic carbon and nutrients from aqueous waste streams (AWS). AWS highly loaded in total organic carbon (TOC) and nutrients include animal manure slurry, liquid phase of digestate of municipal wastewater treatment processes, etc. Contents of such streams should be viewed as resources of green fertilizers for agriculture. However, direct application of AWS as fertilizer is subjected to various limitations due to the imbalance ratio of nutrients, high variability of nutrients composition, high moisture content, and required specialized equipment. Recovery of TOC and nutrients from AWS should be a good way of liquid waste valorisation. The innovative process invests the features of monopolar and bipolar ion exchange membranes in a single electromembrane process configuration. The process will be able to produce acid and base itself that are mostly required by existing techniques for nutrients recovery. By recovering these nutrients, reducing chemical inputs and wastewater discharge in surface water; the overall objectives of this project are contribution to better food and societal economic improvement by the utilization of green fertilizers in agriculture and protection of the environment by innovative liquid waste management. Briefly, Dr Bunani wants to supply to farmers well balanced fertilizers which are environmentally friendly, to contribute to zero-discharge of AWS and to clean water production.

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Samuel Bunani
Burundi

Project: Development of an Electrochemical Process for Recovery of Nutrients from Liquid Waste Resources (e-Pro4ReNs)

Country of nationality:

Burundi

Research area:

Membrane Technology

Host Organisation & country:

University of Burundi, Burundi

Summary

As populations grow and natural environments become degraded in Africa there is an increasing need for nutrients recovery from wastewater and other aqueous waste streams for use in agriculture. Dr Bunani’s research will work on the development of an integrated system consisting of membrane filtration and an electromembrane process for separation and recovery of nutrients from aqueous liquid waste.

 

Grantee Description

Dr Samuel Bunani currently works at the Department of Chemistry, University of Burundi.  He obtained his PhD in Analytical Chemistry in 2017 from Ege University, Turkey. Dr Bunani does research in Analytical Chemistry applied to environmental issues.

 

He is mostly interested in water quality analysis, membrane separation technology (NF and RO) for water reuse, electromembrane processes for wastewater management using electrodialysis (ED) and recovery of valuable chemicals from water using bipolar membrane electrodialysis (BMED). His interest includes inorganic water traces decontamination using ED and ultrapure water production using electrodeionization (EDI).

 

The future perspective of Dr Bunani is to develop efficient technologies and strategies for safe water supply and clean environment by managing the available water resources and aqueous waste streams. From this liquid waste management, he intends to recover nutrients to supply farmers green fertilizers for soil amelioration.

 

Project: Development of an Electrochemical Process for Recovery of Nutrients from Liquid Waste Resources (e-Pro4ReNs)

The development of electromembrane process for a sustainable environmental, agricultural and industrialvalorization of bio-liquid waste is a core challenge for a bio-based economy realization. This project aims to design, develop and apply an electromembrane based process to recover organic carbon and nutrients from aqueous waste streams (AWS). AWS highly loaded in total organic carbon (TOC) and nutrients include animal manure slurry, liquid phase of digestate of municipal wastewater treatment processes, etc. Contents of such streams should be viewed as resources of green fertilizers for agriculture. However, direct application of AWS as fertilizer is subjected to various limitations due to the imbalance ratio of nutrients, high variability of nutrients composition, high moisture content, and required specialized equipment. Recovery of TOC and nutrients from AWS should be a good way of liquid waste valorisation. The innovative process invests the features of monopolar and bipolar ion exchange membranes in a single electromembrane process configuration. The process will be able to produce acid and base itself that are mostly required by existing techniques for nutrients recovery. By recovering these nutrients, reducing chemical inputs and wastewater discharge in surface water; the overall objectives of this project are contribution to better food and societal economic improvement by the utilization of green fertilizers in agriculture and protection of the environment by innovative liquid waste management. Briefly, Dr Bunani wants to supply to farmers well balanced fertilizers which are environmentally friendly, to contribute to zero-discharge of AWS and to clean water production.

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Ngonye Keroletswe
Botswana

Project: Sustainable Water Filtration Using Cellulose Based Membranes Derived From Local Biomass

Country of nationality:

Botswana

Research area:

Water Filtration and Membrane Technology

Host Organisation & country:

Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI), Botswana

Summary

The presence of contaminants in several water sources in Africa makes water unpalatable and significantly reduces the amount of clean safe water available for human consumption. Dr Keroletswe’s research will develop methods of making filtration membranes that can be incorporated into water filters to enable households and/ or communities to clean contaminated water for themselves thereby increasing their access to clean safe water.

Grantee Description

Dr Keroletswe is an ARISE fellow and a Researcher at Nanomaterials Division, Department of Natural Resources and Materials at Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) in Botswana. Dr Ngonye graduated in 2015 from the University of Botswana with a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Her Ph.D. research focussed on extraction of secondary metabolites from medicinal plants, their bioactivity studies and synthesis of heterocycles with antimicrobial activities.

Dr Keroletswe’s research interests include among others tapping into indigenous knowledge systems to inform research in chemistry of medicinal plants and membrane technology where she develops protocols for making sustainable filtration membranes from natural polymers as well as chemical modification of polymers for application in water filtration. This is driven by her desire to improve human lives through science, impart knowledge onto young scientists, inspire female African children by demonstrating that a girl/woman is capable and to contribute to advancement of technology in Africa.

Project: Sustainable Water Filtration Using Cellulose Based Membranes Derived From  Local Biomass.

The project that Dr Keroletswe is researching on is focussed onto developing cellulose based water filtration membranes derived from abundant local biomass such as plants and animal excreta. The challenge with the current synthetic polymer membranes is that they are not only unsustainable (because of their non-renewability), but they are expensive and their waste cause environmental havoc that has adverse effect on natural ecosystems. Also, it has been difficult to upscale most of the membranes for treatment of large bodies of water for use by large communities. The protocols that Dr Keroletswe is developing will open a doorway for further research into the use of cellulose to other applications besides water filtration. Cellulose materials are viewed as the future of materials science. Thus, changing the size of cellulose from micron to nanoscale usher in attractive properties such as enhanced absorbent properties, high tensile strength, and elastic modulus, tuneable and gas impermeable of which may be of interest in other applications. Ngonye will chemically modify the extracted cellulose to target different water contaminants like toxic ions and salinity among others.

 

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Protus Arrey Tarkang
Cameroon

Project: Combining metabolomics profiling of polyherbals and Plasmodium falciparum asexual blood stage-specificity to improve mechanistic knowledge on malaria therapeutic lead discovery.

Country of nationality:

Cameroon

Research area:

Malaria

Host Organisation & country:

Institute of Medical Research and Medicinal Plants Studies (IMPM), Cameroon

Summary

With the increasing malaria parasite resistance to drugs in Africa, the development of antimalarials with new modes of actions is more critical than ever. Dr Tarkang’s research will employ a multidisciplinary approach aimed at the discovery of new anti-infective agents for the identification and validation of new drug targets for malaria therapy.

Grantee Description

Dr Protus Arrey Tarkang is a Senior Research Fellow at IMPM, Cameroon. He obtained his Ph.D. in Pharmacognosy and Complementary Medicine from the University of Nairobi, Kenya in 2014 and his doctoral work focused on the evaluation of the antimalarial and safety profile of a polyherbal product (Nefang). This was proceeded by a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship in infectious diseases, during which he evaluated the in vitro antiplasmodial activities and characterized the interactions between constituent plant extracts of some polyherbals.

Dr Tarkang’s enduring focus is to continuously discover novel natural products and their derived biomolecules and to expand fundamental knowledge about their biological properties, in view of improving their medicinal use. A core research interest is in malaria phytotherapy and centred on the development and application of innovative technologies and screening methods, leading to the discovery of new therapeutic leads.

Project: Combining metabolomics profiling of polyherbals and Plasmodium falciparum asexual blood stage-specificity to improve mechanistic knowledge on malaria therapeutic lead discovery.

This multidisciplinary project aims at the discovery of new anti-infective agents that target human malaria parasites, from selected polyherbals and their use for the identification and validation of novel drug targets for Plasmodium falciparum malaria therapy, by combining herbal metabolomics profiling and P. falciparum asexual blood stage-specificity. Herbal formulations have long attracted interests owing to the potential for synergistic therapeutic effects of components within the mixture, but present challenges to drug discovery due to technical barriers in chemical screening. High-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS)-based metabolomics presents a dependable platform for the complete elucidation of the chemical diversity of active plants. Whereas High-throughput screens are able to identify potent chemical scaffolds, the lack of knowledge on their target often hampers their further development. The study design that he is developing will be a combined approach that provides more resolution into the various anti-infective agents, their interactions and their different modes of action, by identifying the specific moment of asexual blood stage development against which these compounds are most active in comparison with antimalarial drugs, in the context of combination therapies.

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Nada Abdel Aziz
Egypt

Project: The role of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells in the control of schistosomiasis-induced liver fibro-granulomatous inflammation

Country of nationality:

Egypt

Research area:

Immune regulation in helminth infection

Host Organisation & country:

Cairo University, Egypt

Summary

Schistosomiasis continues to be a burden in Africa with more than 90% of cases being concentrated in Africa. Egg-driven pathological inflammation causes long-lasting impairment of the affected organ function with no available effective drug.

Dr. Abdel Aziz’s research will investigate how the regulatory arm of the immune response, regulatory T cells, regulate the development of fibroproliferative pathology and how to harness their immunoregulatory role to better control the disease pathology.

Grantee Description

Dr Nada Abdel Aziz is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and Lecturer at Faculty of Science, Cairo University, Egypt. She obtained her PhD in Clinical Sciences and Immuno-Biotechnology from UCT in 2018 and her doctoral work focused on the role Interleukin-4 receptor alpha-signalling pathway on Foxp3+ regulatory T cells to control helminth-induced tissue damage.

Dr Abdel Aziz’s long-term aspiration is to advance our knowledge about immune regulation underlaying helminth pathogenesis. She aims to develop a novel research avenue that therapeutically harness immune-regulatory arm to control helminth-induced tissue damage, train young African scientists, and conduct research informing policy decisions to improve human health.

Project: The role of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells in the control of schistosomiasis-induced liver fibro-granulomatous inflammation

The regulatory T cell (Treg) project that she is embracing aims to mechanistically understand how Tregs regulate liver fibro-granulomatous inflammation. The currently available drug, Praziquantel, does neither regulate nor reverse the egg-driven immunopathology, thus leaving most exposed individuals with a long-lasting-to-persistent impairment of the affected organ function. Development of novel therapeutic strategies that may help in regulating fibroproliferative pathology to efficiently control the disease burden is thus desperately needed. Dr. Abdel Aziz will use state-of -the-art technologies, single-cell RNA- and ATAC-sequencing, to unveil the changes in Tregs gene expression and epigenetic profile during experimental schistosomiasis. The findings will next be transitionally validated at the clinical level. She then finally aims to mechanistically dissect the function of the consensus factor(s) that empowers Tregs with the suppressive capacity needed to regulate the development of fibroproliferative pathology. Integration of these arms of the project will advance our understanding of how Tregs regulate liver fibroproliferative pathology which will principally pave the way to devise effective interventions that would curtail inflammation and efficiently help in controlling the disease burden in a targeted approach.

 

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Mohamed Taha Rouabah
Algeria

Project: Light Scattering, Quantum Information & Quantum Simulation by Cold Atoms

Country of nationality:

Algeria

Research area:

Quantum Optics

Host Organisation & country:

Frères Mentouri Constantine 1 University (UFMC1), Algeria

Summary

Atoms are the basic component of matter but, their microscopic size makes them difficult to understand. Cooling atoms make them easier to manipulate, and many quantum phenomena can be observed using cold atoms. Cold atoms can be used to simulate other more complicated quantum systems for instance in condensed-matter physics, high-energy physics, quantum chemistry—and even unreachable far cosmological systems.

Dr. Mohamed’s research will investigate ways of detecting and manipulating the properties of quantum systems for large scale use and application in various aspects of medicine, chemistry, drug design, climate change, food security and epidemic preparedness.

Grantee Description

Dr. Mohamed Taha Rouabah is an Associate Professor at Frères Mentouri Constantine 1 University (UFMC1), Algeria. He received a Ph.D. in Physics in 2015, jointly delivered from Frères Mentouri Constantine 1 University (UFMC1), Algeria, and Université Nice Côte dAzur (UNCA), France. His doctoral work focused on coherence effects in light scattering by atomic ensembles and quantum entanglement of coherent states.

Dr. Rouabah is captivated by exploring the fascinating quantum world and the several potential applications of quantum mechanics to improve calculations capacities and investigate yet unreachable states of matter.

Project: Light Scattering, Quantum Information & Quantum Simulation by Cold Atoms

The project aims to ensure high-quality training for junior scientists and engineers in theoretical and experimental aspects of quantum optics, cold atoms, and quantum simulation through collaborations with international teams having a confirmed experience in the field to create a multidisciplinary research team with both theoretical and experimental skills.

The principal objective of the project will be to set up the first cold-atoms experiments in Constantine and some of the rare to exist in Algeria and Africa. During this project, we aim to first achieve a basic cold atoms experiment, then upgrade the experiment to explore emerging "collective" phenomena such as super radiance, sub-radiance, and light-atoms entanglement and their applications in quantum information. The second objective is to build another cold atoms experiment to explore the quantum simulation of some specific topological phases of matter. The third objective of the project is to collaborate with cosmologists to tackle the possibility of simulating some cosmological phenomena using a cold atoms system.

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Mary Oboh
Gambia

Project: Bi-directional patho-immunological modulatory effect of human gut microbiome and P. falciparum in children with varied clinical malaria manifestation in south-western Nigeria

Research area:

Malaria

Host Organisation & country:

Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MRCG at LSHTM)

Summary

Malaria continues to be a public health challenge in endemic regions especially those in the topical and sub-tropical parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa. Parasites and vectors continues to develop new ways in by-passing drug and insecticide treatment. Dr. Oboh is looking at the interaction between the human gut microbiome and malaria infection in children and how this can be harnessed for possible alternative control.

Grantee Description

Dr. Mary Oboh is an ARISE fellow and a postdoctoral fellow in the Disease Control and Elimination at

MRCG at LSHTM in Gambia. She obtained her Ph.D. in Parasitology and Mycology from Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar in 2019. Her doctoral research was focused on the molecular epidemiology and evolution pattern of Plasmodium falciparum drug resistance associated markers.

Dr. Oboh’s long term goal is to broaden her molecular biology and bioinformatics computational skills necessary in understanding infectious pathogens. She hopes to empower young African researchers with relevant skills for solving today’s infectious disease problem that perturbed African population.

Project: Bi-directional patho-immunological modulatory effect of human gut microbiome and P. falciparum in children with varied clinical malaria manifestation in south-western Nigeria

This research aims to evaluate the bimodal patho-immunological impact of the human gut microbiome and P. falciparum infections in children with different clinical manifestation. Current malaria control strategies are bedevilled with the development of resistance both by the parasite and vector, hence there is need to look at other alternative measures that can be applied to mitigate the burden of malaria. This study will employ metagenomics, meta-transcriptomics and dual RNA-sequencing of the human gut microbiome (HGM) and P. falciparum in understanding the interplay between the HGM and malaria and how this impact on the progression of the disease. This study has the potential of designing possible future probiotic interventions for malaria control.

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Abdallah Mahamat Nour
Chad

Project: Impact of climate change on wetlands from the Lake Chad basin and its consequences on groundwater recharge

Country of nationality:

CHAD

Research area:

Hydrology, Hydrogeology, Geochemistry

Host Organisation & country:

University of N’Djamena, Chad

Summary

The development of sustainable water management requires the assessment of surface and groundwater interactions, and aquifer recharge, as well as the response of water balance to climate and environmental changes. The aquifers of the Lake Chad Basin cover four African countries, all of which having different groundwater exploitation strategies. It is therefore of the utmost importance to promote the development of thorough hydrogeological understanding on these strategic aquifers, which are easily exploitable for many purposes, from irrigation to drinking water supply.

Dr Mahamat Nour Abdallah's work will contribute to the framework of the Lake Chad transboundary basin to better manage water resources, which is a hot spot in the central Sahel in the context of global change.

Grantee Description

Dr Mahamat Nour Abdallah is a fellow of the ARISE PP program, a lecturer-researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Geology at the Faculty of Exact and Applied Sciences of the University of N'Djamena. He obtained his PhD in Geosciences at the University of Aix Marseille, CEREGE, France in 2019 and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Pascal Paoli University in Corsica in 2021. His work is mainly based on understanding the functioning of Sahelian and transboundary surface waters and aquifers in the Lake Chad Basin (LCB).

Dr MAHAMAT NOUR Abdallah's long-term ambition is to develop geochemical -isotopic and modelling tools in order to better understand the relationship between surface and groundwater in Sahel and in particular in the Lake Chad Basin for efficient management of water resources. In addition, Dr Mahamat Nour Abdallah aims to develop a new generation of experts capable of understanding these crucial issues for the development of the region.

Project: Impact of climate change on wetlands from the Lake Chad basin and its consequences on groundwater recharge

In Chad and throughout the Sahelian zone, the population's drinking water needs and domestic uses rely mainly on groundwater. Repeated episodes of drought combined with demographic pressure have created multiple tensions on aquifers, both in terms of quantity and quality. Given the strong climatic variability recorded over the last fifty years in sub-Saharan Africa, it is crucial to determine the real impact of current hydroclimatic changes on groundwater resources, which is still poorly documented in this region of the world. The project aims to strengthen our knowledge to address vulnerabilities related to water and climate change, by improving monitoring and forecasting tools, and to strengthen expertise sharing and technology transfer. To achieve these objectives, geochemical and isotopic tools provide key data on the functioning of hydrosystems, surface water-groundwater interactions and ultimately aquifer recharge. Its methodology will be based on existing (hydro-climatic, geological) and new geochemical (major chemicals, heavy metals), isotopic (δ2H, δ18O, 14C), hydrodynamic, hydrogeological, hydro-climatic data collected in this framework. These data will be used as a basis for setting up modelling experiments to deduce and test in different scenarios, depending on the trajectory of climate change and demographic evolution, the management of water resources.

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Laty Gaye Thiam
Senegal

Project: Assessing the functional contribution of genetic diversity in Plasmodium falciparum RH5 vaccine candidate complex in immune evasion

Country of nationality:

Senegal

Research area:

Malaria

Host Organisation & country:

Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal

Summary

Despite the health burden and threat of malaria in Africa, the development of an effective malaria vaccine hasn’t been possible because of the genetic diversity of the malaria parasite.

The goal of Dr Laty Gaye’s research is to gather critical information for the design of the next-generation malaria vaccines through the characterization of the functional impact of genetic diversity in the malaria parasite’s immune evasion and vaccine efficacy. Dr Laty Gaye will apply state-of-the-art technologies to engineer parasites to contain different variants of the current most prominent blood-stage vaccine candidates and determine the most critical variants to include in a highly effective vaccine.  

Grantee Description

Dr Laty Gaye is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal. He obtained a PhD degree in Molecular Cell Biology of Infectious Diseases (MCBI) in 2019 from the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCIP), University of Ghana, Legon. His PhD work focused on the mechanisms of erythrocyte invasion by Plasmodium falciparum, with a particular focus on malaria parasite biology and blood stage vaccines.

As an early career researcher, his goal is to contribute to developing comprehensive biological tools to help address the challenges associated with malaria vaccine development. His short-term career goal is to assess the effect of Plasmodium falciparum genetic diversity on vaccine efficacy. In the longer term, this will contribute to developing strategies to enable the design of next-generation malaria vaccines that can circumvent the challenge posed by strain-specific immunity. This fellowship will greatly enhance his career path, as it will enable him to develop the necessary skills for a better understanding of host-pathogen interactions and specifically how parasite genetic diversity impacts vaccine efficacy, while positioning him to be a leader and mentor for young African scientists in malaria biology and vaccinology.

Project: Assessing the functional contribution of genetic diversity in Plasmodium falciparum RH5 vaccine candidate complex in immune evasion

One of the major challenges that has limited the progress of an effective, deployable malaria vaccine is the breadth of parasite genetic diversity, which often results in the development of strain-specific immunity. This problem has diminished enthusiasm for several invasion-blocking candidates after costly Phase IIb trials. The WHO approval of the first malaria vaccine (RTS,S) is a major achievement and it represents a useful first-generation tool that can be used together with other interventions, but designing a highly-effective, strain-transcendent second-generation malaria vaccine remains the “holy grail” of malaria vaccinology. An ideal malaria vaccine is the one that not only combines safety and efficacy, but also can overcome natural genetic diversity – yielding high efficacy against all circulating strains. Such a vaccine will require a rigorous evaluation of the effect of genetic diversity in the earliest stages of vaccine development, clinical trials, and implementation. Over the last decade, the P. falciparum reticulocyte-binding-like protein homolog 5 (PfRH5) has gained special interest as a promising malaria vaccine candidate, as it is shown to be conserved, immunogenic and essential for parasite survival. PfRH5 binds to other parasite antigens, namely the RH5 interacting protein (Ripr) and the cysteine-rich protective antigen (CyRPA), which together, form an essential complex for merozoite invasion of human erythrocytes. In my project, we will combine genomics and experimental genetics to create parasite lines which can be tested for their immune evasive potential using human monoclonal antibodies from both vaccinated and naturally infected individuals to assess the functional contribution of genetic diversity on P. falciparum immune evasion to ultimately inform the design, evaluation, and optimization of the next-generation malaria vaccines.

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Koffi Kibalou Palanga
Togo

Project: Agromorphological, genetic and biochemical Characterization of three neglected legumes species grown in Togo and assessment for their adaptability to drought

Country of nationality:

Togo

Research area:

Orphan Crops diversity and exploitation

Host Organisation & country:

Université de Kara (UK), Togo

Summary

African Orphan legumes are highly nutritious and stress-tolerant crops with the potential to enhance food security and contribute to more sustainable farming systems in Africa. Dr Palanga’s research will assess the diversity and the nutritional potential of three orphan grain legumes species (African Yam bean, common bean and Bambara groundnuts) grown in Togo.

Grantee Description

Dr Koffi Kibalou is an APTI fellow and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in 2016 and his doctoral work focused on identification of quantitative traits loci associated and the biochemical compounds associated with Gossypium hirsitum (Upland Cotton) resistance to Verticillium dahliae.

Dr Palanga’s long-term aspiration is to continuously expand and embrace new molecular biology and biochemistry methodologies in studying the diversity of orphan species grown in Togo and their potentiality in mitigating the double burden of malnutrition and to cope with climate change challenges. As a Lecturer and a research investigator, he aims to advance a research niche plants molecular breeding, train young African scientists, and conduct research to contribute to a sustainable agriculture and the double burden of malnutrition.

Project: Agromorphological, genetic and biochemical Characterization of three neglected legumes species grown in Togo and assessment for their adaptability to drought

The project on orphan legumes species aims at gathering all the cultivars of three of most endangered legume grains in Togo and their genetic, agro morphological and nutritional characterization. Aside the molecular characterization, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) will be done in order to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and genes associated with phenological and phenotypic traits of importance. Further, the study will also identify cultivars with potentiality to resist to drought in a context of climate change where the rain is more and less irregular and cultivars displaying a yield stability under different environments and the genotype* environment interaction thus paving the way to an efficient breeding program to address environmental challenges. It will promote the integration of high nutritious crops in the diet of the Togolese and by doing so a potential novel source of incomes for farmers.

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Katawoura Beltako
Togo

Project: Quantum Simulations and Energy Materials

Country of nationality:
Togo

Research area:

Quantum Transport, Computational Nanoelectronics, Device Modelling, Condensed Matter

Host Organisation & country:
University of Lome, Togo

Summary
Electronics and energy access defines how people live and how businesses operate, especially for the delivery of basic services such as health and education. This project aims to accelerate the discovery of energy materials and improve the efficiency of nanoelectronics devices for better energy access and low-power consumption of electronics in Africa.

Dr. Katawoura’s research will take advantage of the power of quantum simulations and machine learning techniques to develop predictive models of efficient nanodevices and new materials for energy harvest, and thermoelectric applications such as organic-based thermal coolers or solar cells.

Grantee Description
Dr Katawoura Beltako is an AIMS alumnus, OIST Fellow and currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Institute of Physics at Augsburg University (UNA) in Germany. He obtained his Ph.D. in Nanosciences and Nanoelectronics from Aix-Marseille University in 2018 and his doctoral work focused on the implementation of a computational modelling technique for studying time-dependent electronic quantum transport in complex materials and nanodevices.

Dr. Katawoura’s long-term aspiration is to implement and support the emergence of cutting-edge quantum research in Africa for nanoelectronics applications. He aims to advance a research niche on energy materials discovery and low-power consumption nanoelectronics, train young African scientists, and conduct research informing policy decisions to improve the delivery of energy access dependent basic services such as health and education.

Project: Quantum Simulations and Energy Materials
The quantum simulation project that he is embracing aims to predict the properties of materials and nanoelectronics with molecules as basic functional elements. Molecules have the potential to act as sharp energy filters for electrical currents and could outperform other materials considered for thermoelectric energy conversion. However, there is a clear gap between predictions and demonstrations in the literature studying electronic and thermoelectric molecular junctions. The novelty of his project relies on its capacity to propose nanojunctions beyond current limitations on molecule stability and efficiency for thermoelectric, electronic and energy applications.

Taking advantage of the power of theoretical and AI-based computations confirmed by experimental measurement, this research project focuses on the study of different aspects of quantum transport across molecular junctions and nano-structured materials, ranging from charge to heat transport, as well as excited states and their dynamics. Through the control of chemical synthesis, it will be possible to adjust the electronic and thermal transport properties so that the efficiency of nanoelectronics such as solar cells, thermoelectrics, is greatly increased. Research is expected to lead to a better understanding of thermoelectricity, charge transport at the nano-scale and materials discovery for energy applications.

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Judicaël Obame-Nkoghe
Gambia

Project: What are the bioecological drivers underlying the invasive success of Aedes albopictus, and risks of arbovirus emergence in Gabon, Central-Africa?

Country of nationality:

Gabon

Research area:

Vector biology and arboviruses

Host Organisation & country:

Masuku University of Science and Technology, Gabon

Summary

The tiger mosquito has become a major cause of vector-borne diseases in African countries. Dr Obame-Nkoghe’s research will investigate the underlying drivers, including response to environmental stressors and the genetic variability of this species that could explain its invasive success and influence of its vector role for health-threatening viruses in invaded territories.

Grantee Description

Dr Judicaël Obame-Nkoghe is a medical entomologist researcher and lecturer at the University of Science and Technology of Masuku in Gabon. He obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Entomology in 2016. His research focuses on understanding vector systems (ecology, adaptation, vector invasions, vector transmission of pathogens) and how they model the epidemiological patterns of vector-borne infectious diseases.

Dr Obame-Nkoghe’s long-term aspiration is to continuously expand and embrace new biostatistics, genetics and modelling methodologies in studying vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. He aims to build research capacities and advance a research niche on vector-borne and zoonotic diseases in Africa. He aspires to train young African scientists, promote research excellence and leadership, and conduct research informing policy decisions to improve human health.

Project: What are the bioecological drivers underlying the invasive success of Aedes albopictus, and risks of arbovirus emergence in Gabon, Central-Africa?

Ongoing studies in Central Africa revealed that the spread of Aedes albopictus continued across remote sylvan ecosystems in absence of humans, showing thus a relatively large ecological plasticity. This plasticity presupposes its predisposition to cross the bioecological barriers encountered during its invasion process, as well as its potential to be a bridge-vector for several zoonotic-emerging viruses between wild and anthropogenic compartments. While studies in Central Africa revealed a distribution of Ae.albopictus tending to be associated with a decline or replacement of native mosquito species populations (e.g., Ae.aegypti), the bioecological drivers, including response to biological, physicochemical stressors, and the Ae.albopictus genetic variability that could explain its invasive success and influence its vector competence for health-threatening viruses in Gabon, across different environmental contexts, remained poorly explored. Characterizing these drivers underlying the invasive success of Ae. albopictus is crucial for effective vector control measures against emerging arboviruses. The Dr Obame-Nkoghe’s research will uncover and dissect those drivers with the specific objectives to evaluate the bioecological limits, the genetic structuration and bases of the adaptation of Ae. albopictus populations following an ecological gradient. The project will also allow to characterize its relationships with native mosquito species sharing the same habitats and assess, based on virus screening and vector competence assays associated to modelling technics, the arboviruses’ emergence risk. The project will ultimately contribute effectively to the development of arboviruses’ control strategies in this part of the world.

 

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