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New Sustainable African Futures doctoral programme

- Wits University

Call for Applications for the WESAF Programme now open.

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Edinburgh (UoE) inaugurated the Wits-Edinburgh Sustainable African Futures (WESAF) Doctoral Programme, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program – a global initiative that enables learning and leadership development for talented young people, primarily young Africans, who face the highest barriers to accessing higher education. The WESAF doctoral programme aims to build sustainable development-focussed, interdisciplinary research capacity in partner higher education institutions in Africa.


The recruitment phase of the programme was initiated through a hybrid information sharing session held in April. Representatives from Wits, the UoE and several partner African institutions engaged around the unique opportunities for innovation and sustainability that WESAF offers to early career scholars. The session featured contributions from Professors Ruksana Osman and James Smith who together committed to leveraging the WESAF model to build advanced research capacity in African universities that will enable them to grapple with the complex, continental challenges to sustainable development on its own terms.

“Wits University is pleased to be contributing to this incredible partnership that will go a long way towards advancing teaching and learning and knowledge creation on the continent. We look forward to working with our partners to effect real change in society through this unique programme,” says Professor Ruksana Osman, Wits Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic.

Charlie Bevan, the Program Director for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the UoE showcased some of the previous Mastercard Foundation Scholar achievements. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is the largest scholarship initiative of its kind in Africa. Its focus is to enable talented and diverse young people, particularly young women, to lead, pursue their aspirations, and enrich their communities.

“Developing global challenge-focused research capacity is critical for Africa, and for the world. This programme in partnership with University of Witwatersrand will provide cutting-edge research training for talented researchers from across the continent and act as a catalyst to ensure that African researchers are at the forefront of addressing some of our most profound challenges,” adds Professor James Smith, Professor of African and Development Studies and Vice-Principal International, the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Barbara Bompani and Professor Brett Bowman, the Academic Directors housed at the UoE and Wits outlined the aims, outcomes and envisaged design of the WESAF Doctoral Programme.

Download the WESAF Information Presentation

Call for Applications

The call for applications to the programme is open with some guidelines on how to apply. Applications close at 17:00 on Monday, 15 May 2023.

Successful applicants who will form the first WESAF cohort are scheduled to gather in person for a week of structured orientation as part of the official commencement of the programme in Johannesburg in September 2023. For further information please visit

About the Wits-UoE Partnership

Wits and the UoE share a long-standing and productive partnership. Bound by common values, the universities are committed to developing knowledge collaboratively that will shape dignified, equitable and sustainable futures for people across the world.