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.

Hear about research from an Afretec member university

Planning grants

Recently, 11 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.

2023 awarded grants

David Vernon with robot

Culturally sensitive social robotics for Africa

PI: David Vernon

Partner institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, Carnegie Mellon University Africa

The project will identify verbal and non-verbal social and cultural norms of human interaction that are prevalent in African countries in order to incorporate them in the behavioral patterns of social robots so that they can engage with African people in a manner that is consistent with their expectations of acceptable social interaction.


Digital malaria control for the developing world

PI: Carine Pierrette Mukamakuza

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University Africa, University of Rwanda

By studying human and organizational factors, this project aims to adapt current technological advances in order to improve malaria control in the African context including investigating deep learning methods for reliably identifying malaria parasites.

Beauty shot of a black woman

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

PI: Pulkit Grover

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Mellon University Africa, American University in Cairo, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Rwanda, University of Ghana

Focused on the improvement of biotechnologies, this project will refine electroencephalography (EEG), a technology that measures brain activity, to work with all African hair types and enhance Pulse oximetry (PulseOx) to remove sources of bias in measuring blood oxygen saturation.

Prosthetic hand

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

PI: Moise Busogi

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University-Africa, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Rwanda, University of Nairobi

Integrating elements of digital technology and additive manufacturing, this project seeks to enhance access to cost-effective, quick, and quality prosthetic and orthotic services.

Cows in a field in front of a power plant

Continental digitized African sensing platform

PI: Swillam Mohamed

Partner institutions: American University in Cairo, University of Lagos, Carnegie Mellon University

The goal of the project is to create the infrastructure needed to develop, test, and deploy one of the first low-cost air pollutant sensors created and produced completely in Africa.

Vials of blood samples

Pathogen detection from blood-serum samples using novel microelectronic sensors and AI

PI: Ismail Yehea

Partner institutions: American University in Cairo, Carnegie Mellon University

Focusing on biosensor data that is tailored to detect biomarkers, pathogens, and parasites in blood specimens, the project will develop microfluidic sensing technology that utilizes impedance detection and machine learning techniques. Healthcare access in Africa will be improved as this technique will be more suitable for remote and point-of-care settings.

EKG screen

Towards IoT-enabled privacy-preserving large-scale healthcare analytics in Africa: A use case on monitoring a cardiovascular disease

PI: Elbat Tamer

Partner institutions: American University in Cairo, University of the Witwatersrand, Carnegie Mellon University

This project aims to make monitoring cardiovascular diseases more accessible by designing and demonstrating low-cost, privacy preserving, and scalable digital technologies based on Internet of Things (IoT). Wireless and machine learning will be used to monitor and identify abnormal electrocardiogram patterns in patients.

Person drinking water

Strengthening water access and quality in selected African countries

PI: Amuda Muhammed

Partner institutions: University of Lagos, University of Nairobi, University of Rwanda

Informed by community knowledge and participation, the project will develop smart in-situ water purification technology in two informal communities in each of the partnering institutions’ cities in order to build an African knowledge ecosystem for improving and ensuring water security.

Hand holding money and phone

Finia: Financial inclusion via novel intelligence and alternative data

PI: Chipeta Chimwemwe

Partner institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, Carnegie Mellon University Africa

This project builds data-driven digital building blocks for financial inclusion and education in Africa. These provide recommendations on how to design digital financial literacy strategies; examine the factors that drive successful transition to digital financial services; and explore machine learning tools to predict financial distress of African startups.

Person writing

Improving digital education and learning innovation in the South African and Rwandan teacher education systems: Towards bridging a digital knowledge divide in Africa

PI: Juliet Perumal

Partner institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, University of Rwanda

In order to further close the digital divide in Africa, this project will develop a digital education and learning laboratory that will be used as a site for modeling professional teacher development and creating a research-led platform to build research capacity between its partner institutions.

Blue sky

Supporting inclusive air quality management in Africa with a novel system of digital tools

PI: Peter Adams

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University, University of Rwanda, Makerere University, Cairo University, Université Jean Lorougnon Guede, University of Pretoria

Through building digitally enabled, low-cost, technical, and policy analysis tools, the project will aid African decision-makers as they manage air quality and protect public health.

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

2024 Research to Advance the Inclusive Digital Transformation of Africa

The call for proposals has ended

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, cyber security, and information & communication technologies that advance the 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 the application of digital technologies to problems in a broad range of application areas, including agriculture, education, energy, financial Inclusion, healthcare, infrastructure, manufacturing, transportation, waste management, water systems, and more. Proposed projects can include both innovative development and application of digital technologies in the African context.

2024 Research to Advance the Inclusive Digital Transformation of Africa (seed grant proposal)

The call for proposals has ended

CMU-Africa on behalf of Afretec is offering research seed grants to support the creation of multi-institution research teams that include researchers from at least two members of the Afretec network. These grants are available for research teams to form, identify and develop research projects in areas that drive inclusive digital growth in Africa and lead to job creation. The purpose of these teams is to support planning activities that aid prospective research teams in preparing for proposal submissions to external funding opportunities and build momentum toward a sustained research program. Proposed research projects must be cross-university collaborations that focus on innovative approaches and apply digital technologies to African challenges.