2023 Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa awards announced

Bradstreet Gate

A detail on one of the wrought-iron side columns of the Bradstreet Gate. Harvard file photo

5 min read

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs, in collaboration with the Harvard University Center for African Studies, have announced the 2023 awardees for the Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa.

After an extremely successful first round of awards during the 2020–21 academic year, the Motsepe Foundation generously doubled its commitment to the fund to include support for projects falling within the STEAM rubric (the application of the arts and humanities to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research). Now in its third year, the fund has garnered interest from faculty across the University with broad-ranging research interests in Africa, confronting key challenges and opportunities facing the continent with innovative project proposals.

“We were enthused by the high caliber of all proposals we received, and the breadth of disciplines represented within them,” said John Shaw, vice provost for research, Harry C. Dudley Professor of Structural and Economic Geology, and professor of environmental science and engineering. “We are thrilled to see the continued interest in this fund and look forward to the impactful outcomes of this year’s awards.”

Reflecting on the competition for awards, Mark Elliott, vice provost for international affairs and Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History, said, “I am so pleased to see how the Motsepe Fund continues to inspire diverse scholarship and research partnerships between Harvard-based scholars and colleagues at African institutions.”

Across the three years of awards so far, the fund has supported proposals by primary investigators from five of Harvard’s Schools, including the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Harvard Medical School. Another three Schools have been represented by co-investigators or collaborators on funded projects: Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“This fund has enabled Harvard’s faculty to pursue more work on the African continent and I am glad to see the meaningful collaboration with colleagues in Africa, which will lead to beneficial research outcomes for us all,” shared Emmanuel Akyeampong, Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Harvard Center for African Studies and Ellen Gurney Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies, as he emphasized the importance of this fund for Harvard’s partnerships in Africa.

The eight projects selected this year for awards from the Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa are:

“Lions and Livelihoods: Exploring Pathways for Sustainable Human-Wildlife Coexistence in Kenya” By Andrew Davies, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; with collaborators Zoe Marks (Harvard Kennedy School), Alayne Cotterill (Lion Landscapes, Kenya/Tanzania/Zambia), Lucrecia Aguilar, Ph.D. ’26 (Faculty of Arts and Sciences), Glen Behr (Lion Landscapes), Thomas Mojong (Lion Landscapes), and Nelly Palmeris (Mpala Research Centre, Kenya)

“Discovering the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Toxicity of Environmental Pollutants in Nigeria” By Cassandra Extavour, Timken Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; with collaborator Amos Abolaji (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)

“Using Machine Learning to Guide National Tuberculosis Disease Control in South Africa” By Maha Farhat, S.M. ’15, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School; with co-investigator Shaheed Vally Omar (National Institute of Communicable Disease, South Africa).

“Metabolic Effects of the Physical Activity Transition in Western Kenya” By Daniel Lieberman ’86, Ph.D. ’93, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences and Interim Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; with co-investigators Robert Ojiambo (Moi University School of Medicine, Kenya, and University of Global Health Equity, Rwanda) and Paul Okutuyi (Moi University School of Medicine)

“Wastewater Surveillance for Multiple Infectious Disease Pathogens and for Antimicrobial Drug Resistance in Botswana: A pilot study” By Shahin Lockman, S.M. ’03, Associate Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; with co-investigator Roger Shapiro, M.P.H. ’03 (Harvard Chan School) and collaborator Sikhulile Moyo (Botswana Harvard Health Partnership)

“Archaeological Diversity in Africa: Rediscovered Arabic Diaries from the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition to Egypt and Sudan, 1913–1947” By Peter Der Manuelian ’81, Barbara Bell Professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; with collaborators Matthew N. Cook (Harvard University Library) and Wendy Doyon (American Research Center in Egypt)

“Renewable Namibia: Exploiting Wind and Solar to Expand Domestic Energy Access and Exports of Zero-Carbon Energy” By Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; with co-investigators Frank Keutsch (Harvard Paulson School), Chris P. Nielsen (Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy, and Environment), and Haiyang Lin (Harvard Paulson School) and collaborator Zivaye Chiguvare (University of Namibia)

“Developing a Habitability Index to Assess Climate Risk” By Eugene Richardson, assistant professor of global health and social medicine, Harvard Medical School; with co-investigator Christopher Trisos (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and collaborator Luckson Zvobgo (University of Cape Town)