LIRA 2030 – Fostering Transdisciplinarity in Africa

The LIRA 2030 Africa programme seeks to build capacity of early career scientists in Africa to undertake transdisciplinary research and to foster scientific contribution to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Our accompanying learning study aims at understanding 1) the role of transdisciplinary approaches in addressing complex issues in African urban contexts, as well as 2) how research funding programmes can achieve the dual role of fostering science-society-policy interactions while simultaneously tackling science inequalities through capacity building. 

Research approach

The research funding programme we are studying is the “Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa” (LIRA 2030 Africa). The main goal of the programme is to increase the generation of high quality, integrated (i.e. inter- and transdisciplinary) knowledge on sustainable development in African cities that is at the same time solution-oriented and policy relevant and to build a generation of scientists with the ability to produce and communicate this type of knowledge.

To support the programme, we conduct an accompanying study with the aim to foster learning about these topics within and beyond the programme. The study has the following five goals: 1) demonstrating the diversity of understandings and practices of transdisciplinarity across the LIRA research projects, 2) understanding how the acquired learning about the problem as well as the framing, the context and input from stakeholders influence the choice of action, 3) identifying key enablers and challenges for transdisciplinary research in African contexts, 4) identifying and categorizing the range of results emerging from the LIRA projects and to understand the role of transdisciplinarity in achieving the projects’ objectives; 5) assessing the role of the LIRA programme in influencing the projects’ capabilities of engaging in transdisciplinary research. 

To tackle these goals, we use a mixed methods approach comprising interviews, surveys, document reviews and participatory observations at several stages of the programme implementation. In addition, we designed self-reflection and knowledge exchange activities for the funded projects. The study results are regularly fed back to and discussed with the representatives of the projects and the programme management in order to enhance learning among all participants.


Advancing global sustainable development not only requires relevant knowledge for sustainability transformations, but also tackling existing differences in the potential of science for driving these transformations. This is particularly true for Africa, where overall research productivity is still lower, compared to other parts of the world. The LIRA 2030 Africa programme aims to address this dual challenge. Since its inception in 2016, it has involved three thematic calls for funding on different sustainability topics: 1) Understanding the ‘energy-health’ and ‘health-natural disasters’ nexuses in African cities (2016); 2) Advancing the Sustainable Development Goal 11 in Africa (2017); 3) Pathways towards Sustainable African Urban Development (2018).

Further information  

Research and project partners

  • Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland
  • Prof. Zarina Patel, Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Katisa Paulavets, International Science Council


International Science Council via funding by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida, Grant No. 54100034)


Schneider, Flurina/Zarina Patel/Katsia Paulavets/Tobias Buser/Jacqueline Kado/Stefanie Burkhart (2023): Fostering transdisciplinary research for sustainability in the Global South: Pathways to impact for funding programmes. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 10 (620 (2023))

Patel, Zarina/Flurina Schneider/Katsia Paulavets (2022): Linking Local Projects With Global Processes: Learning From Transdisciplinary Collaborations in African Cities. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 4:806053


2017/10 – 2021/12