International Studies & Programs

About the Alliance

The Alliance for African Partnership is a new initiative at Michigan State University that will develop a collaborative and cross-disciplinary platform for addressing today’s global challenges. The Alliance will innovate new models of engagement for shared research, while enhancing the resources and capacities of African universities, institutions and scholars.  

The opening activity of the Alliance for African Partnership was a convening of leading African thinkers and MSU faculty, held at MSU May 10-12, 2016. Download Event Program (pdf)

The What

Innovative Partnerships for Innovative Solutions

Michigan State University's African Studies Center and Africanist faculty are well known for their long tradition of collaboration with African organizations and for developing best practices for research, partnership and study abroad in Africa.

Building on this history, the Alliance will promote innovative modes of collaborative research and partnership with African institutions to address emerging challenges in today's world. It will be designed to support and expand upon some of MSU's ongoing activities with African partner institutions and to promote new areas for collaboration in addressing commonly shared (although often differently manifest) challenges—be they youth under- and unemployment, climate change, food security concerns, health and nutritional challenges, income, gender or other inequalities, cultural heritage preservation, the humanities, or promotion of good governance and institution building.

The Alliance for African Partnership deepens President Lou Anna Simon's pledge that: As part of our covenant with society, we must consider new ways in which the world's best research-intensive universities can make a difference, independently and together, in addressing the vast societal changes influencing this new Millennium.

Through the Africa Alliance MSU will continually strive to be a leader in co-developing best practices for partnerships in Africa.

The Why

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa will contain 2.1 billion people, roughly 22% of the world's population and nearly 30% of the world's urban population. Population growth and urbanization will put immense stress on Africa's food, water and energy systems. Climate change will intensify these challenges. Yet these challenges bring with them great opportunities. The region is rapidly transforming and livelihoods are generally improving. Africa's youthful population is considerably better educated that the preceding generation.

Over the next two decades, 330 million young Africans will be entering the job market looking for work. The demands on urban planning, environmental protection, sanitation and health care, and education systems can be managed with well-informed policies and programs. And because the sustainability and resilience of Africa's economic systems depend on fresh water availability, access to land, and reliable energy systems, we recognize these as inter-connected systems that should be addressed comprehensively. Our premise is that practical, policy-relevant research will allow public and private sector organizations in Africa to respond to these challenges, and that partnerships between supportive international universities can meaningfully contribute to the process. We further believe that support for research in the humanities can contribute insights that promote effective policy responses to these challenges.

The How

Cultivating Collaboration and Innovation

To address these challenges, the Alliance will promote deeper collaboration with African partner organizations. Our networks and partnerships will support innovative approaches to research, teaching, outreach, and capacity building around themes of mutual interest. The Alliance's activities will serve as models for Africa-led partnerships, cross-disciplinary research, and applying science and the humanities to development challenges.

Situated in MSU's highly recognized Africa Studies Center, the Africa Alliance will add value to MSU, African partners, and development partners in the following ways.

Communications and knowledge-sharing

  • Serve as a communications hub sharing information on MSU's and partner institutions engagement in Africa, thus enhancing the potential for information sharing within and beyond participating institutions and promoting cross-institution and cross-disciplinary collaboration
  • Raise the international visibility and disseminate outcomes of both MSU and its partners' extensive engagement in Africa – including partnership activities, institution building, scholarship and contributions to the region's efforts to address its societal challenges

Bringing in new partnerships 

  • Provide seed grants designed to promote new partnerships with African organizations that will contribute to future grants and enable new teams of MSU and African researchers to build long-term programs of scholarship together
  • Support MSU's and partners' young researchers by giving them opportunities to engage with and build long-term programs of research and outreach in Africa
  • Enable a broader group at MSU and at partner institutions to cultivate and expand connections with African thought leaders
  • Support opportunities for funding MSU faculty sabbaticals at African universities/research institutes; and for African faculty to come to MSU

Enhancing African partners' and MSU's capacities

  • Facilitate African partner organizations' access to significant multi-year funding streams to support the development of long-term research programs and expertise at African universities and research institutes
  • Develop capacity- and institution-building support for ancillary offices that support research activities and reduce the transaction costs for African researchers managing externally funded grants
  • Provide entrée for young African researchers to develop international research contacts, outreach opportunities and access to external funding sources—to enable them to build long-term programs of research at their institutes/departments.

Responding to social challenges and opportunities 

  • Support African partner organizations in convening forums for intellectual engagement, international research dissemination, and knowledge sharing to address pressing development challenges
  • Together with African partners, develop large-scale data analysis of the real needs facing Africa in an inclusive, inter-disciplinary way
  • Consider the larger political and institutional structures in which challenges must be addressed so that institutional transformation can be achieved. Defining and measuring our success

Defining and measuring our success

  • Develop clear definitions and measures of success together with our partners, so that we will be able to evaluate the impact of our initiatives
  • To periodically re-evaluate and respond to this internal assessment process.