Message from the Director: Developing the Next Generation of Scholars at Harvard and in Africa

March 3, 2021

As we approach the one-year anniversary of our shift to virtual programming, the Center for African Studies has been focused on our capacity-building initiatives and training opportunities. We are fortunate to have an ever-expanding cohort of undergraduate and graduate students at Harvard that are choosing to focus at least some of their training on African studies. We are dedicated to supporting their research and education in close association with their faculty mentors.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and we are keen to advance the aspirations of postdoctoral fellows and mid-career professionals at Harvard and on the continent. It is with great excitement that we will re-launch the CAS Postdoctoral Fellowship Program this semester, aimed at providing opportunities for postdoctoral candidates from African universities. Candidates will conduct independent research, publish, and receive mentorship in preparation for successful academic careers. The program will contribute to long-term development of African researchers and their home institutions, and advance stronger ties with Harvard through ongoing research collaborations between faculty, fellows at Harvard, and our partners in Africa. Contemporary challenges require global collaboration across disciplines, and we are eager to empower future leaders with the necessary skills to succeed and grow in their pedagogy and research.

We have also opened applications for the next cohort of the Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program, which provides opportunities for mid-career professionals in South Africa. Fellowships are for up to one year of study at one of Harvard’s Professional Schools, or Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. For over more than four decades, we have welcomed scores of brilliant colleagues who have enriched our community at Harvard. Colleagues have simultaneously acquired skills that shaped their professional lives and helped transform their perspectives, as well as capacity in service of their home institutions and communities.

Our collaborative training and education programs are further enabled when carried out in the context of research partnerships. To that end, we seek to further strengthen research collaboration between Harvard faculty and partners in Africa. Additionally, we are delighted to see the major response to the inaugural call for applications of the Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa. Applications came from every school at Harvard, and the awardees will be announced at the beginning of March. This initiative provides funding for research projects that focus on advancing key challenges and opportunities facing Africa. The proposals highlighted the deep connections that Harvard faculty have on the continent and their interest in research, training, and building capacity with peer institutions. To seed novel ideas and attract more of our faculty to Africa-related research, the Center has also awarded its first round of Faculty Grants that support faculty-led projects related to Africa, supporting research across disciplines and schools.

I am pleased that our efforts to cultivate professional development for scholars at Harvard and on the continent continue to move forward, despite the challenges brought on by COVID. We are committed to working with partners everywhere, including our alumni and friends of the Center. It is our goal to fulfil our academic mandate to advance knowledge and contribute to the betterment of societies in Africa and beyond.       


Warm Regards,




Interim Oppenheimer Faculty Director
Harvard University Center for African Studies

Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences
Professor of Epidemiology, Nutrition and Global Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Tel : 617-432-2086
Twitter: @wafaie_fawzi