Transformative Research

Leading transformative research in, and for Africa.

Our Research Chairs continuously convene large transdisciplinary groups of stakeholders to tackle the most persistent problems facing our world today. In doing this, Future Africa spearheads innovation when it comes to deploying transformative research, informs and supports policy and public action for equitable and sustainable African societies, and inspires science-based sustainability transformations elsewhere in the world.

Sustainable African Food Systems

The Future Africa Sustainable Food Systems Research Chair (FA-SFS) was established in January 2022 to advance the transformative potential of African sciences in creating thriving African societies in a global context. The FA-SFS focuses on conducting collaborative research to address complex, real-world problems related to sustainable food systems.

Its objectives include:

  • Conducting transdisciplinary research that integrates knowledge from the natural, social, and economic sciences to develop sustainable food systems solutions.
  • Building a community of practice that connects researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders to facilitate knowledge exchange, co-creation of knowledge, and collaboration towards sustainable food systems.
  • Advancing the professional development of early career researchers, students, and practitioners working in sustainable food systems through training and mentorship.
  • Developing and sharing knowledge products, including research papers, policy briefs, and other publications, to inform and guide sustainable food systems policies and practices.

The current projects/programmes within the Chair all exemplify the transdisciplinary research approach and systems-oriented nature of the five research focal areas.

Research Chair
Professor Frans Swanepoel This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Research and Project Manager
Dr Colleta Gandidzanwa This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our Programmes

  • New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) Greenhouse Gas Measurement (GGM) Project

    NZAGRC GGM involves innovation and research on challenges in the agricultural sector, addressing issues such as sustainable agriculture, indigenous development, and climate change across southern Africa. The central focus is to support scientific capability and institutional capacity to track agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the region.

  • Food and Livelihood Resilience from Neglected Plant Species in Western and Southern Africa (FORENS)

    FORENS aims to understand and assess the potential of neglected and underutilised plant species (NUS), with the aim of enhancing the resilience of agro-ecosystems and local communities in Western and Southern Africa to environmental change. The project seeks to produce knowledge that can be used to accelerate food production in Africa while contributing to climate-change adaptation, supporting agrobiodiversity, and improving human health through balanced diets.

  • Climate, Land, Agriculture, and Biodiversity (CLAB-Africa)

    CLAB-Africa provides a platform for Africa’s scientific community to contribute to the developmental work of African governments and development institutions. Project contributions are in the form of science-based, actionable policy recommendations within the four identified clusters: (i) climate impact on food systems, (ii) land restoration and biodiversity, (iii) people-animal-ecosystems health and wellbeing, and (iv) land-water-energy resources use.

  • Feed, Protect, Care Global Collaborative PhD Platform

    The Feed, Protect, Care Global Collaborative PhD Platform is a collaboration between the University of Montpellier and the University of Pretoria. This innovative response to the imperatives of open science and open education focuses on the interconnected societal missions of feeding, caring for, and protecting people, places, and the planet. The platform aims to strengthen the capacity of the global scientific community to inform and support critical transformations to ensure sustainable futures at local to global levels.

More Activities

One Health for Africa

  • Overview

One Health is part of the Future Africa research themes and the University of Pretoria strategic plan. The definitions differ widely, but most agree it involves a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach to achieve optimal health outcomes and recognise the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. Africa has unique challenges, and a One Health approach must consider the context locally, regionally and globally. Historically "One Health" has been mostly associated with emerging infectious diseases, food security and antimicrobial resistance; however, it is a much broader approach in collaborative effort and disciplines. The Chair is instrumental in supporting and expanding One Health transdisciplinary research and activities across the University of Pretoria departments and faculties and between institutions, countries and continents. The Chair provides leadership and creates opportunities and resources to enable this, and by bringing people together, real-world problems and changes in behaviour through transdisciplinary thinking will occur.

The definition is based on One Health Foundational Principles

  • Equity between sectors and disciplines
  • Sociopolitical parity (all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities), inclusion and engagement of communities and marginalized voices
  • Socioecological equilibrium that seeks a harmonious balance between human—animal-environment interaction and acknowledging the importance of biodiversity, access to sufficient space and resources, and the intrinsic value of all living things within the ecosystem
  • Stewardship and the responsibility of humans to adopt sustainable solutions that recognize the importance of animal welfare and the integrity of the whole ecosystem, thus securing the well-being of current and future generations
  • Transdisciplinarity and multisectoral collaboration which includes all relevant disciplines, both modern and traditional forms of knowledge and a broad representative array of perspectives.

Future Africa is aligning with these strategic directions of One Health including the One Health Joint Plan of Action (OH JPA)2 that aims to create a framework to integrate systems and capacity for effective and efficient prevention, prediction, detection, and response to health threats.

In addition, we follow the OHHLEP Theory of Change to guide the implementation of One Health initiatives across the University, in South Africa, on the African continent and globally. This theory emphasizes the need for collaboration, communication, and coordination between various stakeholders, including academia, policymakers, researchers, health professionals, and community members.

The One Health Research Chair

Prof Markotter is appointed Research Chair at Future Africa named People, Health and Place (One Health). She is also the Director of the Centre for Viral Zoonoses (UP-CVZ), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria and occupies the DSI-NRF South African Research Chair in "Infectious Diseases of Animals " (Zoonoses). Her interdisciplinary research programme focusing on bat pathogens and predicting and preventing the risk of spill over. In 2021 she was appointed as the Co-Chair of the One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) advising the WHO, WOAH, FAO and UNEP. She is involved in several One Health activities with a pan-Africa focus.

Research Chair
Prof Wanda Markotter This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Community Engagement Officer
Tedson Nkoana This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Project Coordinator
Joyce Jakavula This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Future Africa is actively involved in a number of activities to advance African research leadership in the domain of Sustainability Transformations, with a new Future Africa Research Chair to be appointed in 2024. In addition to developing new transformative research initiatives, the Chair will oversee Future Africa’s role in major international initiatives such as Future Earth, and the World Climate Research Programme, and secure synergies with the work of the University’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship on the UNESCO BRIDGES environmental humanities Coalition, as well as the Albert Luthuli Leadership Institute on the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. In addition, the Chair will contribute to a Sustainability PhD Global Collaborative Platform co-led by Future Africa (on behalf of the University of Pretoria) and the University of Montpellier in France. 

Our Programmes

FAR-LeaF Fellowship 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF), funded by the Carnegie Corporation, is a two-year research fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa. The FAR-LeaF programme recognises the value of creating a long-term network of future-focussed science leaders with transdisciplinary research skills, who can address the challenges of a post-Covid-19 society.

Future Earth, Africa Hub Leadership Centre

Future Earth is a global network of scientists, researchers, and innovators collaborating for a more sustainable planet. In 2023, Future Africa will be supporting the establishment of an African Leadership Centre for Future Earth in partnership with the National Research Foundation and Rhodes University. The Centre will work to advance sustainability science on the continent, elevating African scientists into global dialogues and decision-making fora and building strong grassroots networks of sustainability scientists. 

Understanding the dynamics of African science and technology policy in a global context and ensuring the development of innovative African science and technology systems is imperative for purposes of advancing the transformative impact of African research and scholarship. Future Africa is developing an exciting programme of work in this cross-cutting challenge domain. The broad objective is to develop and enhance leadership for transformative African science systems, identifying and advocating for change where needed and supporting existing and future leaders to amplify the visibility and voice of African science on a global stage.

Our Programmes

African Science Leadership Programme

The African Science Leadership Programme (ASLP) is an initiative of the University of Pretoria and the Global Young Academy, with the support of Robert Bosch Stiftung. It aims to grow mid-career African academics in the areas of thought leadership, team management and research development, to enable them to contribute to the development of a new paradigm for science in Africa, focused on its contribution to solving the complex issues facing both Africa and the global community.


Science Systems Leadership Academy

The Science Systems Leadership Academy strives to catalyse a change in African and global science systems by identifying individuals who are transitioning into leadership roles in scientific organisations globally, and equipping them with the international support networks, critical skills, and knowledge that they will need to drive forward a co-created vision of and for science in Africa.


International Science Council Scoping Project

Future Africa is leading a two-year scoping and development process that will inform the ISC’s future presence in Africa. In the two years, Future Africa will convene a consortium of African partners to identify the need for and the ideal nature of a longer-term ISC role and related institutional presence on the continent. 

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Global Equity in Africa

The Future Africa Chair in Global Equity was established in March 2023 with the broad objective to pursue multi-perspective strategies for global prosperity and peace. The strategies we wish to pursue should position Africa, not only as a major beneficiary of global peace and prosperity but also as a contributor to that objective. In respect of most indicators of prosperity and peace, Africa continues to be left behind. According to a recent World Bank Report, while levels of extreme poverty have decreased globally, they have increased in sub-Saharan Africa

It is not only that Africa remains the most impoverished continent, but it also remains a continent in conflict with high levels of sustained conflict and serious breaches. Under these circumstances, global equity remains unattainable as one continent will remain disadvantaged and marginalized and Africa cannot contribute to the achievement of the global goals.

It is in this context that the Research Chair will pursue multi-perspective strategies for global equity, in particular equity for Africa, by identifying challenges preventing progress on the continent and identifying innovative pathways for overcoming them.

Our Programmes

The Chair has identified three research focal areas, with particular research themes. For the moment these are:


Examples of research themes under this focal area include:

Fight against poverty:

Under this research theme, different perspectives and strategies for poverty eradication will be pursued.

The (global) commons

This theme will focus on global environmental issues, including climate change, oceans and biodiversity.

The Chair is currently assisting the African States on an “Effective Policy Implementation Measures for Addressing Drought under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification” project.


This theme will focus on issues of social and economic development.

A cross-cutting issue under this focal area includes a project on the international community.


Examples of research themes under this focal area include:

Human rights

This theme will address all issues of human rights, with a strong focus on dignity. Particular projects envisioned under this project concern human trafficking. Other research themes will cover human rights and technology.

Institutions (national, regional and/or global

These themes will look at how institutions may be used for the promotion of the broad objective of the Chair and also how they may be abused in a way that negatively impacts the broad objective.

Freedom from violence

The freedom from violence research focal area will cover different themes including:


This theme will address the root causes of conflict, humanitarian considerations in conflict, and strategies to end conflict.

State-sponsored violence

At a more domestic level, the theme will address various aspects of State-sponsored violence including police violence, and extra-judicial killings.

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Our Impact Dialogues is a series that is intended to stimulate bold thinking and debate on important issues that affect African science. The series is open to all –the general public, students, lecturers, researchers, policy makers, and so on. The goal is to have an open, informed conversation about some of the more pressing issues we face as a world today. So far, we have held seminars on Futures Literacy in Africa, lessons from the Open Science movement in Europe, as well as mis -and dis-information on social media.

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The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems(formerly ACoE in Food Security) was established in 2018 as a partnership between the host institution– University of Pretoria – and collaborating partner institutions – University of Ghana and University of Nairobi. The ARUA - SFS aims to create an engaging global network of talented researchers to move institutions forward in pursuit of a common goal. It is recognised that finding solutions to the food security and nutritional challenges in Africa is a huge and daunting task, and there are many local and internationally based organisations working in the African food and agriculture domain. The aim of the AR UA - SFS is not to duplicate efforts, but to create a critical mass of talented researchers working synergistically to maximise complementarity


The vision of the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems is to:

"Harness partnerships in research and innovation to drive agricultural and food system transformation to ensure sustainable food security and nutrition in Africa.”

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