How can ecological restructuring, democracy and peace in Africa be realized sustainably? How can the voices of renowned opinion leaders be heard and innovative approaches from science and practice be seen on the continent? These are the goals of the Maria Sibylla Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA). In the one and a half years of its existence, the international research college has achieved impressive results, and following a successful assessment by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), MIASA will be entering its main phase from September 2020. The BMBF will be supporting the institute for the next six years with a total of nearly twelve million euros.
“It is our role as a university to build bridges for the worldwide exchange of knowledge and so meet our responsibility for political, social and cultural challenges,” says Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, Rector of the University of Freiburg. The University of Freiburg with the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) and the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI) is responsible for developing and coordinating the institute at the University of Ghana.
“MIASA will be an anchor point for researchers from Germany, Africa and throughout the world to study the subject of sustainable governance. We want to make a significant contribution to the reduction in global asymmetries of knowledge,” says Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler, Director of the ABI and initiator of the college. MIASA offers suitable formats for shaping academic knowledge production globally, Mehler emphasizes. At the heart of the cooperation are interdisciplinary research groups. With this approach, scientists from all around the world work together on a thematic focus, such as migration narratives or the functioning of African parliaments. The results are presented and published at international conferences.
The Ghanaian director of MIASA, Prof. Abena D. Oduro, stresses, “MIASA will be an intellectual hub offering unprecedented opportunities for highly topical research relevant to Africa and career advancement of the most promising early career researchers on the continent. The unique intellectual traditions of our campus will have a strong impact on the way our fellows will address their research.”
MIASA also makes numerous tools available for spreading debates and the results of research to a wider public. Another focus of MIASA is the networking of players involved in science and practice. The Policy Fellow format, for instance, enables representatives from political and civil society organizations to visit the research college. Artists are also invited to follow the work of the research groups and create an imaginative and inspirational resonance space.
With the international research colleges of the Maria Sibylla Merian centers, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research aims to promote the internationalization of humanities, cultural and social sciences in Germany through close bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects at sites outside Germany. In regions and partner countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa that are important to academic and science policy, colleges are being created where a group of researchers from Germany and the host country will work jointly on humanities and social science issues and regularly invite fellows. The colleges are being set up and run in partner with German scientific institutions.
The main partners in this research cooperation are the University of Ghana and the University of Freiburg with FRIAS and ABI. In addition, the University of Frankfurt with the Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies (ZIAF) and the Point Sud network, the German Historical Institute Paris/Max Weber Foundation and the Institute of African Affairs of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg are involved.
Photo: The MIASA Executive Council, in the center: Andreas Mehler, project initiator and ABI director, to his right Abena D. Odoru, Ghanaian director of MIASA