News & events


10th African Unity for Renaissance Conference 2020

25 May 2020
  • Dates:   25-28 May 2020
  • Venue:   Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

1.    Background:

The African Unity for Renaissance Conference (AURC) is an annual flagship conference which the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) hosts in collaboration with partners. AISA is an institute in the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). AISA’s mission is to be a leading hub for transformative interdisciplinary collaborative research and interventions that inform policy development, decision making and implementation in governance, peace and security, sustainable development, and in science and technology. The conference is one of the initiatives to commemorate Africa Month and celebrate Africa Day. The Africa Month Programme is part of a number of implementation strategies of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance.

Over the years, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), now Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), has been the key sponsor of the AURC event. The DSI’s celebration of Africa month is aligned to the objectives of key continental, regional and national strategies which emphasises the role of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in building a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth, sustainable development and an integrated continent. Thus, the AURC aligns with DSI’s Multilateral Cooperation and Africa Sub-programme’s strategic objectives to guide, strengthen and promote regional cooperation in science, technology and innovation in Africa as well as advance Africa’s growth and development agenda.

2.    AURC 2020: The Theme

The year 2020 will mark the 10th commemoration of the AURC. This conference edition coincides with South Africa’s Chair-ship of the AU. South Africa chairs the AU under theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development” as endorsed by the AU Heads of States and Governments.  Again this conference edition takes place in the middle phase of a 10-year    Science,    Technology    and    Innovation   Strategy   for   Africa, STISA-2024.   The   strategy  is  part  of  the  long-term  people  centred  AU  Agenda  2063  which  elevates the role of  science-technology-innovation nexus  as a multi-function  tool  and enabler of achieving continental development goals. Against this background, the10th AURC runs under the theme:

“Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development through Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)”.

3.    Rationale for STI as an enabler for Africa’s development

The early part of this century has witnessed emerging double-fold trends: (i) the myriad of complex contemporary societal challenges largely carrying both continental and global dimensions in causes and solutions; and (ii) STI applications as both the causes of and the solution to these challenges. To this end, STI is increasingly becoming entrenched in the broad policy spaces of all nations.

    A central question of the 10th AURC is how Africa can leverage on science technology innovation to address complex issues that impact on the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Important in this regard is the need to use the lens and ethos of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance to identify and address challenges that hinder delivering a prosperous continent. Indeed Agenda 2063, explicitly articulates a view of a prosperous continent based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. Notably, the agenda elevates the importance of a people-driven drive, unleashing the potential of its women and youth and a continent that is a strong, united and an influential global player and partner.

Science and technology is increasingly, becoming a political and technical conduit for inter-country collaborations. Essentially, the STI nexus is shaping the contemporary international and regional science policy issues including large scientific infrastructure, transnational approaches to biodiversity conservation, food and energy security, water management and health, while contributing to policy development, global governance and conflict resolution.

In this setting, the 10th AURC provides a platform to demonstrate the role of STI in harnessing Africa’s economic development as well as exploring potential future roles in this space. To this end, the conference seeks to identify concrete Pan-African solutions that can assist in implementing key global, continental, regional as well as national policy frameworks that include; AU Agenda 2063, the 2030 Development Agenda, the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024), the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063). The conference will serve as a platform to unpack the implementation of these frameworks, the related challenges and tracking progress in implementation.

The Conference Sub Themes

The conference will run under three broad themes namely: (i) Innovation for sustainable development (ii) Future Africa and (iii) Science Technology Innovation a catalyst for sustainable peace and Security.


I.    African Space Science, Technology Innovation and Applications

Growing evidence has shown that while the space sector is not only a high-end technology sector, it provides the tools required for effective decision making in natural resource management and service delivery. Space science and technology has contributed to sustainable development efforts and many other societal benefits, and will continue to do so, and is thus a driver for achieving AU’s Agenda 2063. Despite the plethora of benefits it is inconceivable that African space derived services are imported from abroad. The adoption of STISA-2024 by the AU in 2014 saw the subsequent approval of the African Space Policy and Strategy with the intention of developing an indigenous space sector. This initiative ushered in prospects for emerging continental developments in space engineering, space science, and space applications. Among the intended outcomes of the strategy is the establishment of governance elements needed for the space programme including regional centres of excellence, and the development of a human capital base and space awareness through conduits such as the Pan African University (PAU) Institute. This theme is thus geared to provide a platform to reflect on plans and progress in building a viable continental space programme managed by the African Space Agency. The theme will demonstrate innovations and the application of best practices in this sector and how Africa can leverage on its expertise and experience to provide home-grown solutions to its economic, social and environmental challenges.

II.    Water, Food and Energy Nexus

Sustainable resource management has become a major world-wide governance concern over the three decades especially fuelled by the growing populations, dietary requirements, migration of people from rural to urban areas  and economic growth leading to increased demand for natural resources especially water, energy, food and land. For instance, agriculture is the largest consumer of the world’s freshwater resources, and more than one-quarter of the energy used globally relate to food production and supply. The inextricable linkages between these critical resources requires a suitably integrated approaches to deliver and maintain reliable and secure supplies of water, food and energy (UN, Water 2019).

The continent is going through a transformative phase of unprecedented economic changes at a time when resources are fast depleting in the advent of high extreme climatic events and  climate change. Most regions in the continent are experiencing a steep population growth, unparalleled urbanisation, diversifying and changing diets and increased consumption demands due to improved standards of living. These drivers are exerting pressure on already depleting resources because of climate variability and change. The increasing scarcity in resources is the greatest threat to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  as well as continental and regional targets. The WEF nexus approach is envisaged to integrate inter-sectoral strategies aimed at adapting to these challenges and translate to savings from costs associated with duplication of developmental projects, increased efficiencies due to streamlining of activities, and higher likelihood of success due to consideration of WEF nexus trade-offs and synergies. Thus, ensuring water, energy and food security has been the main point of discussion in the continent focusing on improving livelihoods, building resilience, and regional integration. Achieving these developmental targets has been hampered by sectoral approaches to resource management and utilization.  water, energy and food resources are vital for human wellbeing, poverty reduction and sustainable development and their management is vital for sustainable development.

The challenges that the continent is facing makes it urgent for the continent to adopt sustainable development approaches such as the WEF nexus approach.

These include, but are not exclusive to:
(a)    The poverty-unemployment-inequality nexus.
(b)    Rapid population growth across the region.
(c)    Rural to urban migration due to lack of job opportunities in rural areas.
(d)    Water scarcity, which is being exacerbated by climate variability and change.
(e)     Increasing demand for food due to population growth and dietary transitions and increasing food insecurity among the rural poor, increasing energy demand to meet regional and the continent’s economic development goals.

The water-energy-food nexus has gained a greater research focus largely influenced by related scarcities as driven by global warming, climate change and related uncertainties. Some of the work done by the Water Research Commission of South Africa with its key strategic partners both at national and regional levels (Gareth Simpson and Graham Jewitt, 2019; Mabhaudhi et al., 2016, 2018 & 2019, Mpandeli et al., 2018; Nhamo et al., 2018;). The translation of this knowledge into an actionable plan that can be adopted by policy makers, researchers, academic institutions and community of practice across the African continent however, still remains the next frontier.

The discourse under this sub-theme will thus look at food security, water security and energy security. Within the realm of food security and nutrition is the vulnerability assessment of African population and the development and promotion of agriculture-based manufacturing and services value chains for accelerated economic diversification in the continent. Innovations in sustainable water, food, energy supply and management will be central in this theme.

III.    Integrated Sustainable Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure development and financing are indispensable components of growth and development of any economy. This make the development of adequate, secure and reliable infrastructure an essential building block of sustainable development efforts in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Presently, SSA countries lack secure, adequate and sustainable infrastructure to support economic growth. The year 2030, D-day for the implementation of the Sustainable Development goals, is fast approaching. To this end, it is appropriate to take stock and report the progress made to date, the related challenges hindering progress and plans to overcome these and to scale up implementation activities going forward. Sustainability in the midst of climate change and its related hazards, disasters and opportunities is critical in this regard. Discussions in this space will pay particular attention to the building of sustainable/green infrastructure and industries, across the array of sectors. Some of the guiding issues supporting this pillar include:
i.    The role of technology innovation in supporting integrated sustainable infrastructure.
ii.    Leap frogging technology innovation and meeting the demands for maintaining and upgrading ageing infrastructure.

B.    Future Africa

I.    The Future of Resource Extraction : Special Focus on Mining and the 4th Industrial Revolution

The mining industry is a major export industry in Africa. Thus, it is key to the economic fortunes of many countries in Africa. To this end, the African Mining Vision, advances the use of mineral resources to catalyse broad-based social and economic growth and development. 
Mining-driven economic diversification in Africa is a core contemporary focus of the AU and its member states. Despite this, the role of the mining industry as an anchor of related manufacturing and services industry bases remain limited. Compounding the related challenges are the demands of sustainable development that render the future of Africa’s mining sector both uncertain and highly contested. In this realm, this sub theme provides a platform to demonstrate successful resource-based development strategies particularly the “deepening” of the resources sector through the optimisation of linkages into the local economies. The other dimension to this is the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution which has ushered in a lot of scepticism particularly on the labour dynamics uncertainty.

In this mix, key questions include:
i.    To what extent and how can technology innovation and the ethos of pan Africanism shape the future of the mining sector?
ii.    How is Industry 4.0 shaping the role of agency of development (Women and Youth).

II.    African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) and Investment

The global economy continues to face challenges that retard the development and growth of many emerging market economies. In this milieu, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, agreed to establish a Continental Free Trade Area. This agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) came into effect on 30 May 2019 with 24 countries depositing their instruments of ratification. Among its myriad objectives, the AfCTA seeks to create a single market for goods, services and facilitate the free movement of people to deepen economic integration of the continent. It also advocates the free movement of capital and facilitate investment building on the intentions and developments of state parties and Regional Economic Groupings (RECs). In the case of Africa two types of entities stand to benefit from this AfCFTA arrangement: the State Owned Companies and small and medium-size businesses (SMEs). Global experience suggests that SOEs are in a unique position to drive industrialisation through investments in infrastructure and direct investment and support for building domestic industrial capabilities. In many SSA economies, SOEs are core to the national development strategies. However the majority of SOEs are grappling with inefficacies and are a burden to the national fiscus.  SMEs also face similar challenges and often face these challenges with limited or no state assistance despite providing up 80% of employment in the continent. Against this background, this theme will thus draw policy makers and the civil society, and academics debating how to shape and suggest ways of operationalising the intentions of the AfCTA feeding into the Pan African Vision of an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa as enshrined in Agenda 2063.

i.    How can STI’s contribute to realising the objectives of the AfCTA?
ii.    How can technology innovation enhance effectiveness and efficiency of SOEs.

C.    Science Technology Innovation catalyst for Sustainable, Peace and Security

I.    Science Technology Innovations for conflict management: new approaches, new actors

African Heads of States have made commitments to achieve the goal of a conflict free continent and in the process make peace a reality for all Africa’s people. The plan is to rid the continent off its wars, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters and violent conflicts under the clarion call of ‘silencing the guns.’ However, there remains numerous and varied challenges of conflict in the continent. These continue to negatively affect a number of development aspirations. Concerning is that there is an increase in violent extremism as well as local level conflicts.  Compounding this are the persistence of inequalities, job insecurity and poor living conditions all contributing to human insecurity. As technological innovation develops at a blistering pace, it has fundamentally altered the understanding of how conflicts develop and play out, and how peacebuilders can prevent and mitigate violence. The following questions still remain core of this session.

i)    How can we foster more socially responsible pro-peace innovations that have far reaching positive impacts?
ii)    How can international actors, governments, and civil society organizations leverage ICTs and the data they generate to more effectively prevent violence and conflict?

II.    Technology Innovation for  managing Transnational and Regional Criminal Activities and illicit financial flows

Addressing illicit financial flows to further human rights and peace and security as well as development in Africa is one of the key priorities. Despite the abundance of resources in the African continent it is disquieting to note this wealth is yet to positively influence economic development that alleviate widespread poverty and contribute provision of basic social services. This comes against positive and popular headlines such as “Africa is rising.”  Contributing to this outcome is the issue of illicit financial flows (IFFs) looting resources from the continent’s natural resources and financial aid from international donors and governments.  The finding of the High Level Panel of IFFs from Africa reveals that the continent loses an average of $50 billion yearly due to IFFs. The reality is that unethical networks of IFFs rely on a number of techniques to illegally transfer money and assets from one country to another. This can be done in different ways, the some of which are explicitly criminal and corrupt and thus illegal. The technics used include tax evasion, tax avoidance in the forms of transfer pricing, trade mispricing, mis-invoicing of services, money laundering and illegal export of foreign exchange among others. All these activities hinder the swift realisation of the objectives of the AU Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Global Development Agenda.  On this backdrop this session seeks to examine the impact of IFFs on the human rights, peace and security and the overall development of the continent and explores what should be done to address the plague.

i)    How international actors, governments, and civil society organizations leverage ICTs can and the data they generate to address illicit financial flows from Africa.

4.    Call for Papers 

Submission Guidelines AURC 2020 invites policy makers, researchers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, and emerging scholars to submit abstracts on any of the seven subthemes of the conference. Further details on each subtheme can be found in the full concept note available at Submissions should focus on practical country and regional case studies that could serve as domestic and international best practices for African countries to emulate in our quest to create a conducive environment for Africa’s development.

Abstracts should be maximum 300 words with 5 keywords. A 100-word author biography including email address should accompany abstract submission. Selected candidates with be asked to submit their full draft papers with a maximum required length of 6 000 words.

Important Dates and Deadlines

  • Deadline for submission of Abstracts: 31 January 2020.
  • Notification of Accepted Abstracts: 15 February 2020
  • Submission of Full Draft Manuscripts: 20 April 2020.

All submissions will be peer-reviewed through a double blind peer-review process coordinated by the Scientific Committee. Successful and unsuccessful submissions will be notified as soon as the reviewers complete the reviews.

Please submit your abstracts to Mr Rodney Managa on COPY Dr Shingirirai Mutanga and Dr Thokozani Simelane

For any further information or clarity regarding your submission please do not hesitate to consult any of the three contacts stated above.

5.    Call for Institutional Partners

The AISA in the HSRC hereby extends an invite to institutions within the continent. This a Premier continental convening platform elevating the role of science-technology-innovation nexus as a multi-function tool and enabler of achieving continental development goals. Apart from advancing knowledge production and Policy Advocacy, the event shall form part of the commemoration of Africa Day. It will be a platform for showcasing Innovations: Exhibitions

If your institute wishes to be part of the historic AURC hosted for the first time outside South Africa kindly submit your expression of interest to Ms Ithuteng Sekaledi on and copy Dr Shingirirai Mutanga on
For any further information or clarity regarding your submission please do not hesitate to consult any of the contacts stated above.