2020 AfricaLics PhD Visiting Fellowships

The African Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (AfricaLics) is looking for suitable PhD student candidates from universities in African countries to participate in the AfricaLics PhD Visiting Fellowship Programme (2021 batch) focused on Innovation and Development. The programme allows successful candidates a study period of five month based at the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Science, Aalborg University, Denmark. The Call is made at a time of worldwide uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we expect that it will be possible to implement the programme as envisaged some time during 2021 and therefore urge students to apply despite of the uncertainties.

Africalics PhD Fellowship Programme (VFP)

Within the AfricaLics community, innovation is broadly defined as spanning from “new to the world inventions” to the diffusion and use of technology new to the user or context in which it is introduced and includes competence building among users of innovation. Technology here can mean both a physical product as well as a process or new way of doing things. Innovation and Development Studies research as defined by the AfricaLics network includes the study and management of processes that link technological and social innovation with development. This includes studies and improved understandings of how learning and competence building systems contribute to development processes.

Scholars in the field may have a background in economics and/or other social sciences (Sociology, Political Science, Science and Technology Policy, Geography, History or Development Studies), but some also work within the STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) subjects or even manufacturing. They work within a broad range of areas including energy and sustainable development/transformation, health, agriculture, manufacturing and work organisation, big data and the fourth industrial revolution.  To understand more about the field of innovation and development and see if your work fits within this research area, please look at the papers published in relevant journals including (but not only) the following: Research Policy, Innovation and Development, African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Technology in Society. Journal of Product Innovation Management, Technovation, Industry and Innovation.

About the AfricaLics Visiting PhD Fellowship Programme

The aim of the visiting fellowship programme and the scholarships is to help African PhD students working in the field of Innovation and Development to strengthen their academic/research qualifications; improve quality of their dissertations and prepare for a career in innovation and development either within academia or outside (e.g. in the private sector or in government/policy making). The visiting fellowship programme does this by increasing the international mobility and level of exposure of the PhD students to international knowledge in the field of innovation and development. The programme forms part of the efforts by AfricaLics to contribute to the development of a vibrant research community in Africa in this emerging and highly multidisciplinary field.  The Swedish Development Agency, Sida (Stockholm) provides funding for the visiting scholarships as part of the project Enhancing research capacity on Innovation and Development in Africa through the African Network on Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (AfricaLics) – Phase II (2017-2021).

The AfricaLics secretariat (hosted by the African Centre for Technology Studies) is responsible for the project with the AfricaLics Scientific Board providing advice on scientific matters and issues of strategic importance. The AfricaLics PhD Visiting Fellowship Programme more specifically is organized jointly by the AfricaLics secretariat and researchers at the Faculty of Social Science at Aalborg University, including members of various research groups such as IKE (Innovation, Knowledge and Economic Dynamics); GRS (the Global Refugee Studies research group); and DIR (Research Centre on Development and International Relations). The programme also includes collaboration with scholars from other universities such as Lund University in Sweden (Department of Economic History) engaged in Globelics – the Global Research network on Learning, Innovation and Competence building

Eligibility and selection criteria

The scholarship option is open to PhD students from countries classified by the DAC as low and lower-middle income countries in Africa whose studies – irrespective of sectoral discipline – focus on innovation and development. Female PhD students are particularly encouraged to apply as AfricaLics endeavours to contribute to increasing the currently low number of female scholars in Innovation and Development research studies in Africa. Likewise, PhD students from low-income countries are particularly encouraged to apply as AfricaLics endeavours to increase research capacity in Innovation and Development in low-income countries in Africa.

Applicants must be enrolled as PhD students at African universities and must have completed their first year of PhD studies by December 2020. A maximum of four visiting scholarships are available for 2021. The visiting scholarship is complementary to the studies of the PhD students and applicants must already have secured basic funding for their PhD studies from other sources (e.g. African governments, other organisations, self-financing). The programme gives priority to students working on topics related to the research themes identified by the AfricaLics network as important to the future of Africa.

The study period at Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark

The visiting scholarship provides successful PhD students with the opportunity to study at Aalborg University, Denmark, for a maximum of approximately five months. The study stay is scheduled to take place from 1st February 2021 to 30th June 2021, but the exact timing will depend on the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. If all goes well, students should arrive on the 1st February 2021 to be able to participate in introductory activities, including registration with the Danish authorities and an introductory seminar for the group of PhD students. The visiting scholarship will provide students with time off from duties in their home country to focus on analysing data collected from fieldwork and writing up articles or chapters for their PhD thesis. Students will also do presentations of their project work to and benefit from interaction with faculty members and fellow PhD students working on innovation and development issues at the Faculty of Social Science at Aalborg University and other relevant scholars engaged in the AfricaLics VFP.

The study stay will also include possibilities for participating in a limited number of PhD courses either in Denmark or in countries in Europe that offer courses deemed of particular relevance for the student. In exceptional cases, the programme will also fund costs related to participation of the PhD student in conferences taking place during the time of the fellowship to help foster the PhD students’ academic career. Paper or poster presentation by the PhD student is a pre-condition.

During the fellowship period, each student will be “matched” with at least one senior scholar and possibly also with a junior scholar with competences in the field in which the student is active. The scholars will act as mentors for the PhD visiting fellows. Mentors attached to the AfricaLics PhD visiting fellowship programme have so far come mainly from IKE, but scholars from other research groups at AAU and other collaborating universities such as Lund University are increasingly being involved. In this way, the AfricaLics Visiting Fellowship Programme help build research capabilities in the field of Innovation and Development drawing on internationally renowned scholars in the field. Final selection of mentors depend on the topic and background of successful applicants.

Mentors from AAU and other universities are not formal supervisors and hence full responsibility for the PhD study process remains with the PhD student and his/her supervisors from the home university in Africa. Close interaction between the PhD student, home supervisor and the mentors is required to make sure the study stay contributes in a constructive manner to the studies of the PhD student. Hence, the PhD candidate should organize trilateral meetings and e-mail exchanges between the PhD student, the main supervisor from the home institution and the AAU mentors. Meetings will mostly take place through Skype, but at least one meeting will be a face-to-face meeting as home supervisors visit their students in Denmark for in-depth discussions on progress made by the PhD student and discussions on research and research capacity building in the field of Innovation and Development in Africa more generally.

Participation in the AfricaLics PhD Visiting Programme should form part of the wider PhD study plan for each applicant, which may include various elements such as:

Initial theoretical studies/taught courses and fieldwork in home country/country where the student is already enrolled as a PhD student (first year must have been concluded by December 2020).

Maximum of five months visit to Aalborg University to focus on writing up thesis or articles that are part of the PhD thesis.

Participation in AfricaLics VFP seminars organised as part of the study visit (introduction seminar, paper presentation seminars and wrap-up seminar)

Participation in relevant PhD academies and training events in DK or neighbouring countries (e.g. DRUID Academies) and one or two carefully selected PhD training courses in Denmark taking place during the study period (e.g. DRUID PhD Academy and other options – see PhD course in Denmark and  PhD coursed for courses at AAU). PhD candidates are responsible for applying to such courses and academies themselves following agreement with their home-supervisors, mentors and the AfricaLics PhD VFP academic coordinator).

AfricaLics PhD visiting fellows are encouraged to work on and submit papers to up-coming relevant conferences such as e.g. the AfricaLics Conference 2021 and the 17th Globelics conference 2021 (in Costa Rica). Participation in such activities implies exposure to the wider Globelics/AfricaLics community. It is the responsibility of the PhD candidates themselves to apply for participation in such events.

Return to home country and continue work on PhD dissertation in order to finalize and submit.

The visiting fellowship is for a period of 5 months, but we actively encourage students to remain engaged with the AfricaLics network post visit and have established an informal group of PhD VFP alumni that meet online from time to time.

Student requirements and Application Form

Applicants for the AfricaLics PhD visiting fellowship programme should:

Be enrolled as a PhD student at a university in Africa.

Have completed their first year of studies by December 2020 (upgrade/probation)

Have a background (BSc, MSc etc.) within Economics, Sociology, Political Science, Science and Technology Policy, Geography, History or Development Studies. Applicants may also work within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) subjects or even manufacturing but from a social science perspective.

Possess adequate skills in English (documentation may be requested. Language tests that are accepted are listed on the AAU web-page (list of accepted language tests)

Be working actively on a subject relevant to the field of innovation and development as defined above.

Submit a brief application 1 page/500 words explaining own background, motivation for applying and expected outcomes of participation in the AfricaLics PhD visiting fellowship programme

The application must be accompanied by the following documents:

Brief outline of your current PhD project including training plan (max. 5 pages)

Curriculum Vitae – CV (including PhD courses attended so far)

Letter of support from the main PhD supervisor confirming that the PhD student will have completed her/his upgrade/probation by end January 2021

Letter of support from the University Administration at the university where the PhD student is enrolled

Copies of academic certificates (copies of Bachelor and Master Certificates as a minimum)

One writing sample (article or chapter) from current PhD program

You are NOT expected to submit a copy of your passport when applying for the PhD visiting fellowship programme. If you are offered the scholarship, we will ask you to confirm that you have a passport that is valid for the duration of the scholarship and at least six months after (or whatever is required at the time of application for residence and work permit in Denmark). Collection of personal data will be kept at a minimum, stored safely and will not be used for any other purposes.

Please, downloads the application form here

Applications with all relevant attachments should be forwarded to visitingphd@africalics.org by 31st July 2020 (COB).

Applications not fulfilling the requirements above will not be considered, so please forward any questions you may have to visitingphd@africalics.org and you will be assisted.

Successful candidates will be notified by September 2020, following which they will be required to confirm their interest (sign study agreement form) and apply for residence and work permit in Denmark (see below).

Residence and work permit

Successful PhD candidates are responsible for applying for and paying the costs (including administration fee) for their residence and work permit themselves, but the International Staff Unit at AAU will assist students in the process of obtaining this. The total amount of the stipend that the PhD candidate will receive during the study period in Denmark includes an amount equivalent to the fees that have to be paid, but costs will not be refunded directly. Advance payment is also not possible.


The organisers at AAU will provide information on accommodation options in Copenhagen but visiting fellows must organise and pay for accommodation themselves using funds available from the stipend. One option is to apply for accommodation at the Danida Fellowship Centre (see Accommodation)

Additional information on terms and conditions

Travel costs (economy class) and health insurance will be covered, but students have to be registered with the Danish authorities before the health insurance becomes active. This may take some time. Students must therefore take out their own health insurance for the first two weeks of the stay.

The visiting scholars will receive a stipend of 16,000 DKK per month (equivalent to app. 2330 USD as per 25th May 2020). This includes funds for accommodation. Tax exemption has to be applied for after the candidates arrive and cannot be guaranteed, so it is advisable to bring extra funds for the first two months of the visiting fellowship period. If an agreement is made that Danida Fellowship Centre in Copenhagen houses the visiting fellow, the stipend amount may change.

A fixed amount is available to cover student participation in selected course activities and for supervision (over and above the stipend).

Funding is available for organizing trilateral meetings between the PhD student, the main supervisor from home institution and the AAU mentor during the study period at AAU.

The scholarship covers only costs related to the visit of the student him/herself. Costs related to accompanying spouses, children or others are not covered. Unfortunately, this fellowship cannot support accompanying family members and we strongly encourage fellows to not bring family members for the study visit as this will reduce time available for focussing on the PhD work.

Source: AfricaLiscs website


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