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WSG joins experts to address global challenges


The WSG was part of a team that won a grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund.

The Wits School of Governance will join experts from developing countries and the United Kingdom to tackle some of the most serious global challenges in a new multi-disciplinary research programme launched in July 2017.

Professor David Everatt, Head of WSG, will work with WSG’s Dr Caryn Abrahams, Dr Ivan Turok from the Human Sciences Research Council and co-investigators from different countries on a project that will study urban transformations in both large and small cities in the following countries: South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg); Tanzania (Dar es Salaam and Ifakara); Rwanda (Kigali and Butare); India (Delhi and Meerut); Bangladesh (Dhaka and Khulna); China (Chongqing and Datong), and Philippines (Manila and Batangas).

The £8 million research programme, anchored at the University of Glasgow, has been designed with the understanding that research on the relationship between urbanisation, health and education in developing countries is fragmented; and that cities are sustained in no small part by ‘neighbourhoods’, variously defined, and widely under-researched.

“The project is critical in firstly insisting on comparative work across Africa and Asia – that alone will ensure comparativity and cross-country learning. It will place in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the context of other African and Asian capital cities, challenged by low growth, high inequality, in-migration and often poor local governance.

“However, it is also a learning platform, with space and budget for both PhD and post-doctoral work. Finally, it is key in focusing not on the wealthiest or the poorest, but on those communities – ‘neighbourhoods’ – that help stitch and hold together the city fabric,” said Everatt.

This highly prestigious grant was awarded through the Global Challenges Research Fund and forms part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance commitment and is delivered through 17 delivery partners including Research Councils, the UK Academies, and funding bodies.

Professor Ya Ping Wang, Principal Investigator from the University of Glasgow, feels that the project will make a significant contribution to global debate, policy and practice about the development of sustainable cities and communities.

The research team noted that there are no systematic, comprehensive and comparative evaluations of the social and physical states of urban neighbourhoods formed under different policy and governance ideologies. This research project proposes a partnership of capacity strengthening and research based on collaboration and knowledge co-construction with partners, and the development of localised, specific responses to particular urban issues.

There are now important differentiations between regions, individual countries and major and smaller cities. Knowledge, technology and investment transfers between developing countries have had great influences on urbanisation trends in the recipient countries. Such variety in urbanisation provides an ideal laboratory for the study.

It offers policy makers and planners a “catalogue of the possible”; it reveals what does and, importantly, what does not work in unidirectional and un-contextualised transfer, and highlights the gap between local and global knowledge.