Knowledge creation

Building research capacity across Africa

Afretec is developing an applied African digital knowledge and research ecosystem that responds to continental, national, and sector challenges.

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View upcoming opportunities in Afretec's pillar of knowledge creation

The second founding pillar of the Afretec Network is a commitment by members to build research capacity and capability in Africa. This will be achieved through the formation of a digital knowledge creation ecosystem that will support, promote, enhance, and enable African scholarship in areas of importance to Africa’s digital inclusive transformation. The knowledge creation pillar of the Afretec Network will focus on activities and multi-institution collaborations that enhance research capacity and capability in Africa. This will include activities such as knowledge creation symposia, workshops, research administration programs, and collaborative knowledge creation grants.

The knowledge creation ecosystem aims to provide a platform for researchers to share best practices, enhance research capabilities, and establish multi-institutional research collaborations while pursuing exciting and topical research that contributes toward driving the inclusive digital transformation of Africa.

Some of the activities launched under the knowledge creation pillar of the Afretec Network include:

Planning grants

Recently, six planning grants were awarded to research collaborations that will lead to socio-economic impact and focus on driving inclusive digital growth on the African continent. The projects are aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Digital Transformation Strategy and build on underlying engineering, technology, and science in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, information technology, and cybersecurity.

2022 awarded grants

Beauty shot of a black woman

Low-cost, accessible biotechnologies for African hair and dark skin colors

Primary investigators:

This project intends to make two widely used non-invasive technologies— electroencephalography (EEG) and pulse oximetry (PulseOx)—more accessible and affordable for the African population. Presently, EEG does not work well with the hair of those of African descent, while PulseOX may provide inaccurate readings for people with dark skin colors. Researchers will examine these technologies to better understand their shortcomings, by enabling co-developing, prototyping, and testing solutions.

A car tire

Towards intelligent traffic management and safety

Primary investigators:

This project seeks to improve traffic safety in Africa through work related to intelligent traffic management. Researchers aim to generate practical impact in three areas: theoretical research in networking, distributed and cloud/edge computing, internet of things (IoT), and AI; applied research in intelligent transportation systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to address problems in traffic safety and efficiency in African contexts; and the education of graduate students who will allow the flow of knowledge into the workforce.

Man putting on a prosthetic arm

Leveraging additive manufacturing to improve access to quality prosthetic and orthotic services in developing countries

Primary investigators:

  • Jean Bosco Byiringiro (Dedan Kimathi University of Technology - Kenya) 
  • Moise Busogi (CMU-Africa)
  • Conrad Tucker (CMU-Pittsburgh)

Only 5 to 15 percent of people in low- and middle-income countries in need of assistive technologies have access to them. This research project will leverage advances in emerging technologies to accelerate access to prosthetic or orthotic services. The researchers will integrate elements of machine learning, 3D scanning, and 3D printing in ensuring cost-effective, speedy, and quality access to prosthetic and orthotic services. This work will be done in close collaboration with local health providers.

Cardiac monitor

AI systems for cardiovascular disease screening in Africa

Primary investigators:

Congenital heart disease (CHD) affects about 8 in every 1000 live births in Africa. This project aims to make cardiac screening financially viable and create a services industry around cardiac screening solutions. Researchers will review multimodal methods and automated tools for CHD screening of African children. The results will kick-start an ambitious line of research for a computer-aided decision system for point-of-care CHD screening and eventually expand to developing screening tools for a variety of conditions relevant to the African context.

Cows in a field in front of a power plant

Fostering clean development in Africa by developing and disseminating reduced-complexity models of air pollution

Primary investigators:

The air pollution challenge in Africa is severe. Unfortunately, there is little technical capacity to consider the air pollution and health consequences of decisions in an evidence-based way. Reduced-complexity models (RCMs) are a new approach that offers opportunities to make evidence-based decisions, and they require little personnel time, specialized training, or high-performance computing. The purpose of this project is to take initial steps towards developing an RCM for Africa and to engage with African collaborators.

Birds on a telephone wire at sunset

Electricity utility digital transformation: Preparation for advanced data-driven change

Primary investigators:

  • Trevor Gaunt (University of Cape Town - South Africa)
  • David Oyedokun (University of Cape Town - South Africa)
  • David Laverty (Queens University - Northern Ireland)
  • Fernanda Trindade (University of Campinas - Brazil)
  • Barry Rawn (CMU-Africa)
  • Eric Umoza (CMU-Africa)
  • Assane Gueye (CMU-Africa)
  • Craig Miller (CMU-Pittsburgh)
  • Larry Pileggi (CMU-Pittsburgh)
  • Vyas Sekar (CMU-Pittsburgh)

The digital transformation of Africa will enable utilities to become a testbed for innovation while improving their financial position in terms of efficiency and appeal to investors. The information and communications technology advantages of Rwanda can be tapped by its electricity utility, Rwanda Energy Group (REG), by fusing existing data sources, implementing advanced data analytics, and identifying areas of strategic investment. This project will establish a map for digital transformation in REG that includes data architecture, data fusion, and low-cost, open-source hardware and software. Additional work will evaluate how to transform incomplete data sets into information suitable for decision-making. 

Digital workshops

Afretec sponsors conferences and workshops that focus on the digital transformation of Africa. The network has recently sponsored and participated in:


panelist at a conference

Panelists at the West African Conference on Digital Public Goods and Cybersecurity in May 2022.

Upcoming opportunities


Afretec Network Call for Proposals logo

2022 Inclusive Digital Transformation Collaboration Grant
To be posted

The goal of this program is to build research capacity on the African continent through the creation of multi-university research teams who collaborate to advance the digital transformation of the continent. Digital technologies include artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, and information & communication technologies that advance AU Digital Transformation Strategy as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa. The UN SDGs touch on every aspect of society therefore proposed projects can target problems in a broad range of application areas, including agriculture, education, energy, financial Inclusion, healthcare, infrastructure, manufacturing, transportation, waste management, and water systems. Proposed projects could include both innovative development and/or application of digital technologies in the African context.


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>18 multi-institution planning grants

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>180,000 research projects supported

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>$200,000 in conference support

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>100 people supported to attend workshops