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The pioneering new UK centre transforming the way research in Africa is carried out

Dr Susan Jim, PARC’s Manager; Professor Isabella Aboderin, Director of PARC; Dr Divine Fuh, of the University of Cape Town; and Wilna Venter, Research Collaboration Specialist at the University of Cape Town.

A Bristol-based centre working to help transform the way collaborative research between global North and African partners is carried out has marked two successful years since its launch.

Established in 2020 with a £1m gift from the Perivoli Foundation, The Perivoli Africa Research Centre’s (PARC) main goal is to disrupt the status quo that’s seen institutions and models from the global North dominate science and research in Africa, and globally. This has harmed the continent as well as international scholarship.

PARC believes that African Universities, scholars, priorities and ‘ways of knowing’ must both drive the generation of evidence for innovation, change and progress in the continent; and must take their rightful place in research and science to address shared global challenges.Ensuring that research collaborations between African and global North institutions are Africa-led, address priority agendas in the continent, foreground African ‘ways of knowing’ and set aside common notions of developed and developing countries is a critically important step.

PARC connects people and constituencies within Bristol universities, the UK, Europe and globally to support Africa’s priority agendas, with activities that include hosting discussion forums, launching partnerships, undertaking research, allocating research funding, and engaging policy at national and regional levels.

James Alexandroff, trustee and settlor of the Perivoli Foundation, said: “The approach in the past has been to tell Africa what it needs, which some critics argue did more harm than good. Although worthy in ambition, lack of thought around implementation, feasibility and ownership has meant that outcomes are generally accepted to have fallen way short.

“We are delighted to support the pioneering work of PARC in its efforts to change the nature of the dialogue between the North and the South in the hope that research institutions in Africa take evermore a leading role in deciding what is best for the Continent.”

A Perivoli Charter

Together with African partners, PARC’s leading project is the development of a Perivoli Charter, a framework aiming to shape the way UK universities and their African counterparts configure their research relations and partnerships.

The initiative has gained endorsement from the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and other key African universities and is now engaging key actors and networks in the UK Universities sector.

PARC is led by Professor Isabella Aboderin who was formerly at the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) in Nairobi, Kenya. She said: “It is fantastic to see how PARC’s approach has resonated with academics at both the University of Bristol and at Universities in Africa.

“We look forward to seeing the Centre grow and fulfil its mission to champion true transformation in Africa research and partnerships.”

The centre’s recent offer of £200k seed funding for research projects originating in Africa received 55 proposals from academics at universities across the Continent, with four having since been accepted.

Capstone projects 

PARC’s other work includes three initial ‘capstone’ programmes of research. One focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights, specifically on the challenges of sexual and gender-based violence. An initiative is underway to identify an African priority agenda for research to inform and advance existing commitments to end sexual violence.  

A second focuses on care systems, aiming to inform the development of transformative systems of providing care at both ‘ends of life’ – for the young and older adults. It will focus on understanding arrangements, lived experiences, impacts and the value of such care; and on the case and directions for public investments to expand formal care services or expand support structures for families and communities providing care. Focussing initially on Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, there are plans to extend it to Namibia. 

A third is examining ways in which water security and management, sanitation and hygiene systems need to be configured across rural and urban contexts to help preserve health, including with potential future pandemics in mind. An initiative is underway to identify an African priority agenda for research in these areas.

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