Stellenbosch University
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Proud leader of ACEWATER-III
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 24/05/2024

​​​Stellenbosch University (SU) will take the lead in a project worth 5 million euros (R100 million) to undertake research and capacity development with the aim of improving transboundary water resource management across Africa.  

 The ACEWATER-III project was officially launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in April 2024 and will be implemented from 2024 to 2028. Funded by the European Commission, the project will involve:

  • scientific, technology and innovation research for increase Transboundary Water Resource Management;
  • human capacity development through short courses;
  • short-term mobility opportunities between partners;
  • research and skills exchanges; and
  • engagement with policy stakeholders.

 Wide implementation network

The project will be implemented by SU along with 20 partner institutions in the AUDA-NEPAD Networks of Water Centres of Excellence, and the EU delegation to South Africa. The AUDA-NEPAD Networks of Water Centres of Excellence is a network of higher education and research institutions that conduct high-end scientific research and capacity development in the water and related sectors of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Member institutions are from South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal. The body received its mandate in 2005 from the African Union through the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) and the African Ministers' Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST).

 Dr Nico Elema, director of SU International's Centre for Collaboration in Africa, will be the project lead. He also facilitated the launch of ACEWATER-III along with the other AUDA-NEPAD network partners, AMCOW, the regional economic communities in Africa, and representatives of the European Commission in Nairobi. “SU has been contracted by the EU delegation to South Africa to lead this third phase of the ACEWATER project. Yet we are also working very closely with EU Water in Brussels and the EU Joint Research Centre (EU JRC) in Italy as we build on many years of science diplomacy," Elema says.

“Our job is to make sure that all the activities are implemented through our network partners in the various African countries," he adds. “Each one of them will undertake research and capacity development within the river basin organisations in their regions. The SU Water Institute will also contribute some research and training."

Aiming for meaningful impact

The aim is for the research and capacity development activities to have a meaningful impact on Transboundary Water Resource Management, Elema says. “We must have an impact on society in terms of our policy engagements and the knowledge that we generate. Through AMCOW, we work very closely with the ministers of water across the continent, so at the end of the day, we would like our research to have an impact on their policy decisions.

“It is also about joint learning," he continues. “We are all good at something, but not everything. If we, as a network, can bring our strengths together, we really can become excellent. With the very high level of stakeholder engagement involved in this project, we need to make sure that we have a positive impact on the African water and sanitation space."

 Elema says even though ACEWATER-III project was only officially launched in April, the network partners have already started identifying the research projects and training they would like to undertake.​