Who we are

Africa Institute of South Africa

Who we are

The Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) undertakes basic and applied policy-relevant research that focuses on the development challenges and opportunities facing the African continent. It seeks to provide leadership and harness African agency in the drive for the transformation of African societies into dynamic, peaceful, prosperous spaces. Founded in 1956 and incorporated into the HSRC in 2014, AISA takes its lead from Agenda 2063, Africa’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development. Agenda 2063 supports the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity. AISA’s work is also guided by South Africa’s National Development Plan: Vision 2030, the Department of Science and Innovation’s Strategy for Africa, and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s African Foreign Policy objectives. The institute is a hub for Africa-centred knowledge production, policy engagement, and implementation support. It is a catalyst for transformation and convenes African scholars, practitioners, policymakers and civil society to amplify African voices and to build capacity and train young scholars, future leaders and women in Africa.

What we do

The Africa Institute of South Africa collaborates with and provides research-based policy advice to African multilateral organisations on public affairs. Its projects create platforms for dialogue, research dissemination, and capacity building through interventions such as the African Unity for Renaissance Conference, the African Young Graduates Conference and the Archie Mafeje Memorial Annual Lecture. AISA’s key stakeholders include the African Union, the United Nations, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Southern African Development Community, government departments, universities, science councils and civil society. AISA supports the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. The African Union and South Africa have prioritised regional integration as a means for growing intra-African trade and Africa’s economies. AISA has produced reports on science diplomacy in Africa, alcohol abuse in Mpumalanga and is working on a baseline study for food and nutrition security in South Africa. The institute also produces policy advice and has held engagements on violent extremism in southern Africa.

Revisiting the concept of state (nation) building in Post-Colonial Africa: Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya and South Africa in comparative perspectives

The African continent has a rich history of nation-building, which pre-dated colonialism by centuries. Many famous pre-colonial African states include Sudan, Songhai, Ghana, Grand Zimbabwe, and Zulu. Nevertheless, the colonial enterprise has defined the current processes of state structure. Within the understanding that pre-colonial states or empires rise and fall, the contemporary manner of state formulation and decay on the continent necessitate some form of in-depth interrogation and assessment. Our objective is to assess the resilience of states on the continent and, based on the findings, suggest strategic options on how such conditions could be strengthened and prevent state decay on the continent. A resilient community provides strong institutions and employment, and strives to eradicate poverty, whereas a failed state breeds corruption, poverty, inequality, and unemployment. Thus, research aimed at strengthening the state on the continent is in tandem with the AISA-HSRC research agenda, which seeks to eradicate poverty, unemployment, and inequality in South Africa and the global south.

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Evaluation of silencing the guns in Africa


The motivation for the project arises from the understanding that there has been robust debate, both at the continental level and among scholars of the global south, for the need to structurally investigate the reoccurrence of conflicts and conflict situations on the African continent.  This debate sharply contrasts the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank's structural adjustments programmes imposed on many African economies between the 1980s and 90s. Many have equally argued that for Africa to address the continent's security challenges systematically, there must be a structural transformation of our society. Structural transformation in this regard can be defined as the sustained and massive transfer of resources from one sector of the economy to another due to changes in a particular country's economic fundamentals and policy. The continent has for decades relied on agriculture and other natural resources to boost foreign currency earnings and revitalise their economies. In essence, the structural transformation would entail the diversification of the economy, the transformation of the people's mindset towards the state and a renewed focus on the services sector and industrialisation. The political, economic and security challenges the continent continues to face after over six decades of independence suggest that structural transformation failed to take root. An essential variable of the structural transformation paradigm, perhaps overlooked, was the nation-building aspect which is the foundation of any thriving economy in Africa. Fundamental in this regard is to distinguish between nation-building and state-building. The critical question is, has the continent invested enough in nation-building and state-building endeavours? Our project would attempt to investigate these fundamental questions and propose a policy direction the continent needs to adopt to address the precarious security situation in the continent.

See for example Africa needs structural transformation not structural adjustment, available at http://www.uneca.org/es-blog/africa-needs-structural-transformation-not-structural-adjustment accessed on 27/07/2016.



Community of Practice - Africa Food Systems Transformation

Transformation towards sustainable, resilient, equitable, and inclusive agri-food systems is one of the most important challenges of our times across Africa as it contributes to reducing poverty, unemployment, and achieving food and nutrition security in rural, peri-urban, and urban communities. Therefore, research focusing on the transformation of food systems is one of the present and key research agendas of AISA in South Africa and other countries in the region, including Tanzania and Zambia. The current study focuses on Food systems transformation leveraging digital and climate-smart agriculture technologies and has started data collection in Zambia, going into Tanzania and South Africa this year. To prepare for fieldwork in Tanzania, a multi-stakeholder consultative workshop becomes essential ahead of the field data collection process. Such a workshop will allow the team to understand the perspectives, needs, and concerns of various stakeholders involved in the agri-food system. This can help shape the research objectives and methodology to ensure they are relevant and beneficial to those directly impacted by the system. The workshop will provide an opportunity to build relationships and trust with stakeholders, facilitating better cooperation and participation during the fieldwork. More importantly, this consultative workshop will help identify potential challenges or barriers that might arise during the research project. This can allow for proactive planning to address these issues.

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Africa Young Graduates and Scholars conference - Deputy Minister's address

Project Snapshots


Africa Institute of South Africa

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