Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa awards announced

Harvard University Gate.

Harvard University. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

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 Center for African Studies, have announced the 2022 awardees for the Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa.

The Motsepe Fund was inaugurated in the 2020-21 academic year. After a very successful first year, the Motsepe Foundation generously doubled its commitment to the fund to include support for projects that fall within the STEAM rubric (the application of the arts and humanities to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research). In its second year, the fund garnered interest from faculty across the University with research interests in Africa, who submitted innovative projects addressing key challenges facing the continent.

In his inaugural year as vice provost for research, John Shaw, Harry C. Dudley Professor of Structural and Economic Geology and professor of environmental science and engineering, reflected, “I am pleased to see how the Motsepe Fund has inspired a rich diversity of research and scholarship, built upon the many strengths of our institution, to build new partnerships in Africa that will benefit humanity.”

“It was encouraging to see the continued high quality of the proposals we received this year, even if it made the job of selecting finalists difficult,” said Mark Elliott, vice provost for international affairs and Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History. “We look forward already to seeing more excellent submissions in next year’s competition, especially those with connections to the arts and humanities.”

“This fund has not only highlighted Harvard faculty’s interest in working more on the African continent, but it has also fostered further connections to develop meaningful collaboration on the African continent to build capacity in STEAM fields,” noted Emmanuel Akyeampong, Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the 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 Africa and for Harvard.

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

“Empowered Postpartum: Increasing Postpartum Care among New Mothers in Kenya with Tailored Behavioral Intervention” By Jessica Cohen, associate professor of global health and population, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with co-investigators Violet Naanyu, associate professor at Moi University School of Public Health, Kenya, and Margaret McConnell, associate professor at Harvard Chan School.

“Digital Interventions to Address Malnutrition and Food Insecurity Among Adolescents in Tanzania” By Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences and professor of nutrition, epidemiology, and global health, Harvard Chan School, with co-investigators Sachin Shinde, postdoctoral research fellow, Harvard Chan School; Dongqing Wang, research associate, Harvard Chan School; Mary Mwanyika-Sando, chief executive officer at the Africa Academy of Public Health, Tanzania; and Isaac Lyatuu, data systems analyst at Africa Academy of Public Health, Tanzania. In collaboration with Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Dana McCoy, associate professor of education at the HGSE; and Till Barnighausen, adjunct professor at Harvard Chan School and director at the Heidelberg Institute for Global Health.

“Optimizing prevention and care at the intersection of TB, COVID-19, and HIV in Ethiopia: a model for Sub-Saharan Africa” By Anne Goldfeld, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, Harvard Chan School, in collaboration with Daniel Meressa, medical coordinator at the Global Health Committee in Ethiopia; Yemane Berhane, professor of epidemiology and public health at the Addis Continental Institute of Public Health, Ethiopia; and Adrienne Shapiro, acting assistant director in the Departments of Global Health & Medicine (Division of Infectious Diseases) at the University of Washington.

“Every child counts: Validating UNICEF’s global guidance to estimate the number of children affected by wasting in Niger” By Sheila Isanaka, associate professor of nutrition, Harvard Chan School.

“Capacity Building to Support Genomic Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Botswana” By Roger Shapiro, associate professor, immunology and infectious diseases, Harvard Chan School, with co-investigator Shahin Lockman, associate professor of medicine at  Harvard Medical School. In collaboration with Sikhulile Moyo, laboratory director and clinical trials research scientist at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), Botswana.

“Projecting Sea Level Changes in Africa: Improving the Science, Assessing Vulnerabilities and Informing Adaptation Policies” By Jerry Mitrovica, professor of Earth and planetary sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Diane E. Davis, professor of regional planning and urbanism, Graduate School of Design, with co-investigators Mohamed Abdel-Karim Aly Adrabo, professor, Alexandria Research Center for Climate Change at Alexandria University, Egypt; and Mahmoud Adel Hassaan, professor of human geography and GIS, Department of Environmental Studies at Alexandria University, Egypt.

“Thiomi-Lugha Natural Language Processing” By John Mugane, Professor of African and African American Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with co-investigator Demba Ba, associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Patricia Kameri-Mbote, professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. In collaboration with Paul Azunre, founder of GhanaNLP.

“Data for Advancing Wellness in Africa (DAWA) Pilot Study” By David Williams, professor and chair, social and behavioral sciences, Harvard Chan School,  with co-investigators Todd Reid, research associate, Harvard Chan School; Michelle Holmes, associate professor of medicine at HMS; Daniel Wikler, Mary B. Saltonstall Professor of  Ethics and Population Health, professor of global health and population, Harvard Chan School; Kanshukan Rajaratnam, professor at Stellenbosch University, South Africa; and Francis Bajunirwe, professor at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda. In collaboration with Alex Pentland, Professor at MIT Media Lab.