Duke's global centers & initiatives

Africa Initiative


The Africa Initiative (AI) is a faculty-led initiative that brings together scholars from across Duke University and the Duke University Health System who have a shared interest, through their research or programmatic activities, in the countries and cultures of the African continent. The goals of the initiative are to:

  • build connections between schools, programs, institutes and departments;
  • continue to foster new collaborations across disciplines;
  • transport existing knowledge gained whether in Durham or the African continent to other Duke locations around the globe;
  • and explore and pursue new funding opportunities and sponsored research.

Summary of 2021-2022

Notwithstanding the lingering effects of the pandemic, this year we could fund a handful of successful faculty- and student-initiated events. In the following, we describe some of the events sponsored and co-sponsored by the AI throughout the academic year. 


Malagasy-US Science Writing Group
In collaboration with the Duke Lemur Center, a group of Duke Biology PhD students were awarded funds to organize a Malagasy-US Science writing group. They convened a virtual seminar between graduate students from Duke and the Centre Universitaire Régional de la SAVA, a regional university in the northeast of Madagascar. The group focused on improving bilingual science communications skills—both French and English—and on sharing insights from each other’s research.

Africa Policy Talks – Food-Energy-Water
Deferred to fall 2022
The Africa Initiative agreed to fund a student Africa Policy Talks series to bring together African voices at Duke, as well as in the diaspora and on the continent, to focus on some of the continent’s most pressing policy issues as well as to discuss solutions and identify entry points for collaborative action. These discussions were to take place over the course of two years, with two per semester. This spring’s sessions, deferred to fall 2022, will focus on policy issues related to the nexus Food/Energy/Water by addressing food security and its entanglement with energy issues and water availability. Future discussions will bring other “drivers” into the discussion, including the effect of COVID-19, climate change, population growth, civil and military conflict, and extreme poverty.

Among the events we co-sponsored were collaborations with the Concilium on South Africa, Duke’s Global Health Institute, the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies, and the John Hope Franklin Center.
Groundswell II: Acting on Internal Climate Migration. A Presentation on the World Bank’s Most Recent Study of the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration
November 2, 2021
In collaboration with the Duke Center for International and Global Studies
Piotr Plewa, DUCIGS Visiting Research Scholar, was joined by Dr. Kanta Kumari Rigaud, lead Environmental Specialist and Regional Climate Change Coordinator of the Africa Region of the World Bank Group, and Dr. Vivian Clement, Senior Climate Change Specialist in the Climate Change Group of the World Bank, for a discussion of “Groundswell II.” This recent World Bank report provides projections and analysis of climate migration for three regions: East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report predicts that between 44 and 216 million people will migrate within and beyond the borders of their countries due to slow-onset climate change by 2050, with most migration occurring in Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific.

COVID-19 in Africa
In November 2021, in collaboration with the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke Global Health Institute and as part of the Wednesdays at the Center series,  John Bartlett hosted a panel of experts from Duke’s Global Health Institute for a discussion of COVID-19 on the African continent. In addition to Dr. Bartlett, the following Duke Medical School and DGHI scholars offered brief comments: Carl Mhina MD MPH Duke Department of Population Health Sciences, Alex Alexander MD Duke Department of Population Health Sciences, Patricia Odero MD MBA Duke Global Health Innovation Center, and Lavanya Vasudevan PhD MPH Duke Department of Community and Family Medicine. Topics included the current epidemiology of COVID in Africa, the strengths and limitations of clinical care on the continent, the current status of vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy.
Achieving Lasting Peace in the Horn of Africa

Cancelled due to scheduling issues; to be rescheduled in Fall 2022:
In collaboration with the Duke Center for International and Global Studies and the (undergraduate) Hamilton Society
Rt. Honorable Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister of Kenya and current candidate for the presidency, was scheduled to give a public lecture on the possibilities of peace in the Horn of Africa and its significance for African and global relations. He aimed to highlight three key challenges: (a) building political institutions that ameliorate ethnic nationalism and foster national identity; (b) adapting to climate change and the sharing of scarce water resources; and (c) navigating the new geopolitical landscape, in which Gulf nations are increasingly attempting to assert greater influence in the Horn of Africa. In addition to his keynote, Odinga’s visit was to include a meeting with Duke President Vincent Price and a luncheon with Kenyans in the Triangle area.


2021-2022 Notable Programs

Certificates and Awards


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