Doing research on Africa at the University of Basel
Africa and Europe are connected in manifold ways. The two continents share not only a long history but also opportunities and challenges in the present. Both of these call for a joint and interdisciplinary approach in order to achieve positive results. As at now the mutual knowledge on each other is limited. Research on Africa in equitable partnership with African scholars contributes to the building of shared competencies.
The University of Basel has become the centre for research on Africa in Switzerland. This development is rooted in a long research tradition in connection with institutions such as the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the Mission 21, the Museum der Kulturen or the Basler Afrika Bibliographien. In several disciplines there is a strong interest in Africa.
Since 2001, the Centre for African Studies coordinates teaching and research and offers a MA course in African Studies. In various disciplines students can specialise on Africa. Graduates have been selected for prestigious doctoral programmes, for instance at Oxford and Chicago but also for research positions in the NCCR North-South. The Centre represents African Studies in Switzerland in the Africa Europe Group on Interdisciplinary African Studies (AEGIS) and is also associated to the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). Through its members it has a number of partnerships and agreements with African universities.
On the basis of this development the University declared Africa one of its areas of strategic interest (Strategie 2007). In 2007 it became the leading house for the bilateral research cooperation between Switzerland and South Africa with the Swiss Tropical Institute as associated leading house for the cooperation with Tanzania and Côte d'Ivoire. Accordingly, in 2008 the University took over the endowed position of the chair in African History and in 2009 a new chair in African Studies with a social science profile is implemented.
The strategic decisions taken by the University were complemented by a strong bottom-up initiative by the scholars focusing on Africa at the University of Basel. They initiated a Centre of Competence which was approved of by the University in October 2008. The Centre of Competence on Africa was inaugurated in February 2009. It builds on the specific competencies and resources at the University of Basel and incorporates a number of disciplines covering the two focal topics as defined by the University in its Strategie 2007 (i.e. Culture and Life Sciences).