Boy sits among the bushes


More than 100 LSE researchers focus on African countries, across a wide range of social science disciplines

Centre for Public Authority and International Development

Launched on 1 April 2017, the Centre for Public Authority and International Development (CPAID) is funded by a five-year grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to research governance in fragile, conflict-affected, and impoverished areas in Africa.

The research looks at how government officials, political institutions, legal mechanisms,  families, clans, religious leaders, aid agencies, civil society, rebel militia and vigilante groups contribute to the actual experience and practice of governance, by sharing the experiences of affected populations, particularly marginalised and excluded groups.

Countries included in the research programme are those involved in prolonged conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, but also the now relatively peaceful states of Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The common denominator of the research locations is the informal or semi-formal nature of public authority, or the presence of so-called “twilight institutions” such as those associated with rebel groups, border trade networks, and diverse international actors.

The Centre will be led by Professor Tim Allen and hosted at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa.

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Hosted Projects


A Tale of Two Green Valleys

Development is a competitive undertaking in which rich countries seek to advance their commercial interests in their dealings with poorer countries. Within this competitive context, control over knowledge and technology is the ultimate source of dynamic value within the global economy. This project analyses the political economy of data-driven agricultural innovation. By looking within and across two green valleys- the Central Valley in California and the Rift Valley in Kenya- it seeks to trace which actors are contributing to the creation of new economic value through digital innovation, which actors are commercially benefiting from that innovation and how innovation is changing the overall governance of global agriculture. In order to understand and explain this complex picture, we will be doing in-depth qualitative fieldwork with farm workers, farmers, associations, Agritech firms, Agribusinesses and agricultural policy makers in the two valleys (and across them) over the next three years. We hope the project will give policy-makers and the public a better idea about how to support more sustainable and inclusive innovation. 

This is an ESRC funded project, based jointly in the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa and the Department of International Development, LSE. Laura Mann is the Principal Investigator.

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Deconstructing Notions of Resilience: diverse post-conflict settings in Uganda

Deconstructing Notions of Resilience: diverse post-conflict settings in Uganda will explore practices of resilience by reviewing the existing literature and through fieldwork in three post-conflict settings in Uganda: pastoralist Karamoja; areas affected by the LRA insurgency; and West Nile, which hosts and has hosted multiple waves of refugees from South Sudan.

This IGA-Rockefeller-funded research project began in January 2017 and will take place over two years. Professor Tim Allen is the Principal Investigator.

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The Politics of Return

Central Africa has witnessed prolonged and repetitive forms of displacement for many, many years. In 2015, the UNHCR described forced displacement figures related to this region as 'immense'. To date, international organisations have prioritised 'going home' as the most durable solution to this crisis. Processes of 'return and reintegration' represent a huge practical and policy challenge for world governments and are therefore a critical international policy issue. The Politics of Return research project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, aims to study precisely these dynamics in the central and eastern African countries of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan through an inter-disciplinary, multi-sited ethnography of 'return'.

Professor Tim Allen is the Principal Investigator of this project which is hosted at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at LSE.

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Trajectories of Displacement: A multi-disciplinary exploration into return and social repair after mass displacement in northern Uganda

Northern Uganda experienced one of the world’s most notorious instances of forced displacement after the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency from 1986 to 2006. Northern Uganda displacement was notable for its duration – in some areas for well over a decade – and that for the first 16 years of the conflict, there was virtually no humanitarian assistance to the affected population, which only began in earnest after 2003. For the following ten years, while the population was displaced and later, from 2007, returning to and re-establishing their homes, large amounts of international funding were spent.

Now external interest has waned and most aid agencies have withdrawn. What has happened to the population after the war has been overlooked. This research project aims to correct this deficiency through understanding displacement and return through the perceptions and understandings of the people concerned. This is a 20-month project funded by a ESRC-AHRC research grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund.

Professor Tim Allen is the Principal Investigator of this project which is hosted at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at LSE.

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Localised Evidence and Decision-making (LEAD)

In sub-Saharan Africa, local public health practitioners are part of a larger global health system, wherein they implement disease-specific, global health interventions. While these are largely financed by external agents through development assistance, the information and evidence needed for effective decision-making at this level has not been extensively studied. The LEAD Project addresses this need in public health decision-making.

Through new research and an extensive series of workshops the project will create explicit links between local practitioners and the development evidence, identifying local evidence needs and elucidating the complexity of implementation from the local perspective. Using a complex systems approach, this information will influence the methodological choices, inputs and outcomes of modelling intervention implementations, and will inform the exploration of artificial intelligence techniques.

Cristin Alexis Fergus is the Lead Investigator of this project which is hosted at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at LSE.

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Affiliated Projects

Conflict Research Group

The Conflict Research Programme (CRP) is an international research consortium led by the LSE that holds a £6.68m grant from the UK Department of International Development.  Following the successful completion of an inception phase, the programme is currently funded from October 2017 to March 2021.

The programme is led by Consortium Executive Director, Professor Mary Kaldor  and Co-Director for Research, Professor Alex de Waal.  Professor Toby Dodge leads the work on Iraq and the wider region, and Dr Rim Turkmani leads our Syria research. Joint directors for research in DRCongo are Dr Tatiana Carayannis (western DRC) and Prof Koen Vlassenroot (eastern DRC). 

Also based at LSE are  Research Managers Henry Radice and Anna Macdonald, Programme Manager Wendy Foulds, and researchers Naomi PendleAllard DuursmaJessica Watkins and Zeynep Kaya.

CRP was designed to address the drivers and dynamics of violent conflict in the Middle East and Africa and to inform the measures being used to tackle armed conflict and its impacts. CRP research will analyse the logic of the political marketplace and how it intersects with moral populism to drive violence. It will use the concept of civicness to examine how people attempt to constitute humane forms of public authority even in the most extreme circumstances, and how international interventions might better resolve conflict-related problems by supporting responses based on such local civicness.


Spatial Inequalities in African Political Economy

This project aims to identify and interpret political-economy causes and effects of spatial inequalities in East and West African countries, focusing on both urban-rural and cross-regional inequalities. Although these patterns of inequality are of obvious policy and political salience, they are very poorly understood in the academic and policy literatures.  

Do political and institutional causes contribute to these disparities in ways that have gone unnoticed in existing studies, and that may be amenable to reform? And do high levels of inequality in Africa help to produce political effects that scholars have attributed to other, more uniquely African cultural sources (such as ethnicity), therefore causing policy-makers to miss the positive and negative lessons of the experiences of highly unequal countries around the world?  

This project, led by Professor Catherine Boone in LSE’s Departments of Government and International Development and supported by LSE RIIF Seed Fund, addresses both these questions. Our findings will draw Africa-focused scholars and policy-makers toward more theoretically-informed, broadly comparative, and policy-relevant analyses of the causes, effects, and litigators of spatial inequality. 


MEDIAFRICA: New Media Practices in a Changing Africa

New Media Practices in a Changing Africa is a multi-disciplinary project, involving 8 researchers and 7 institutions in 5 countries with funding from the Research Council of Norway, FRIPRO programme

Over the course of three years, this comparative research project will carry out pioneering and innovative research on the social effects of the rapid spread of new media in Africa. Featured country case studies include Botswana, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. With practice theory as an analytical foundation, the aim of the project is to generate knowledge that is useful for understanding the social and economic developments that Africa is currently going through. 

Dr Wendy Willems of LSE’s Department of Media and Communications heads up the Zambia research team.

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Improving Adolescent Access to Contraception and Safe Abortion in sub-Saharan Africa: health system pathways

This three-year research project, funded by MRC/DFID from 1 April 2017, aims to establish how the implementation of contraception and abortion services for adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa can be improved. It will do this by comparing services in three countries: Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia. These three countries represent a range of abortion legal frameworks, from least restrictive (Ethiopia) to most restrictive (Malawi). The research will generate new evidence by collecting data from two groups: adolescents seeking either safe abortion or post-abortion care at facilities; and key informants involved in the implementation of contraception and abortion services for adolescents.

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Dr Ernestina Coast of LSE’s Department of International Development is the Principal Investigator of this project with IPAS.


Going With or Against the Flow? A Study of Water Governance in Goma, DR Congo

This research will investigate the programme’s theory of change, its people, and the critical junctures that have underpinned it. Attention will be paid to how it has sought to work with the power and politics of Goma and the wider DRC, the relationships it has formed with state and non-state actors, and how it has interacted with its primary donor. The overall goal is to relate the research findings to the latest thinking on undertaking adaptive programming in fragile and conflict-affected states.

This is a CPAID and Mercy Corps funded project, based at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, LSE. Patrycja Stys, Tom Kirk, Duncan Green & Joe Trapido are the Principal Investigators.


Building suburbia: housing and the middle classes in Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam, a city of 4.3 million people, has one of the fastest rates of urbanization in the world (UN-Habitat 2014). The city is experiencing rapid residential growth on its outskirts as people who can, acquire land and build houses. As they do so, they are building new suburbs – low-density residential neighbourhoods far from the city centre – about which little is currently known. From 2015-2018, this research, funded by LSE STICERD and LSE RIIF Seed Fund and conducted by Dr Claire Mercer in LSE's Department of Geography and Environment, sets out to address the following quetsions: who lives in these suburbs? How are suburban landscapes planned and built? And, what are the emerging social, cultural, political and economic dynamics of these spaces?


Research Expertise

Over 100 researchers at LSE work on Africa in a wide range of social science disciplines including anthropology, development studies, economics, geography, health, international relations, politics, social policy and social psychology.

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