Exhibiting at the World Science Forum 2022

Image: World Science Forum.

Every two years, hundreds of leading scientists, decision-makers from the world of politics and industry, civil society, and media representatives from over 100 countries gather to talk about the new challenges facing science in the 21st century. With the event taking place in Cape Town this year, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) Global Strategy & Visibility Unit invited a small selection of research units whose work relates to the exhibition’s chosen themes on the role of science for climate change, poverty, inequality, and sustainability.

With inequality (and the accompanying poverties) regarded as one of the defining challenges of our time alongside the climate crisis, SALDRU’s leadership in establishing the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research (ACEIR) at UCT is well recognised with the invitation to participate in the World Science Forum 2022. And, while the exhibition space is limited to a few displays, there is much to showcase about ACEIR’s and SALDRU’s contributions to the research evidence-base on African poverty and inequality.

While only established in 2018, the ACEIR research teams have laid a solid foundation for a better understanding of Africa’s inequality dynamics as a key component of the international inequality puzzle. This was done with the inequality country diagnostics that were published for South Africa (2019), Ghana (2020), and Kenya (2021). This year, work on two more diagnostics (for Mali and Mozambique) commenced in partnership with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the Institut National de la Statistique Mali, and Mozambique’s Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Económico respectively.

Showcasing this work at the World Science Forum 2022 is important for several reasons. With seven of ten of the world’s most unequal countries located in Africa, the inequality diagnostics can serve as a baseline against which changes in different inequalities are tracked over time. Such analyses are important for processes like the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the African Union Agenda 2064. The SALDRU members of the South Africa ACEIR team led writing South Africa’s country report with Statistics South Africa and the AFD. The diagnostic is already a useful reference to compare changes in income, labour, educational and socio-economic inequalities before and after the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The design of each inequality diagnostic to date has been guided by a resource that was developed in the SALDRU corridors as a capacity building tool for country-level inequality analysis. The Handbook on Inequality Measurement for Country Studies was written by researchers from ACEIR’s South Africa node, Dr Muna Shifa and Prof. Vimal Ranchhod.

This year, a French edition was released, making the handbook more accessible to researchers from Francophone countries who are planning a national inequality study. In addition, the handbook has been written with a meta objective in mind: to facilitate the comparability of results and findings across countries. This externality represents one of the major motivations for a multi-country collaboration such as ACEIR – a worthy undertaking to promote at platforms like the World Science Forum 2022!

Poverty and inequality in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation are pertinent issues of the day as was again illustrated at the COP27 in Egypt this month. This points to the currency of the UCT project on Transforming Social Inequalities through Inclusive Climate Action (TSITICA) for those working at the nexus of poverty, inequality, and climate change. This is a joint project of ACEIR and the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Climate and Development (ARUA-CD), also hosted by UCT. It is a three-year collaborative, multi-country, interdisciplinary research project with the universities of Ghana, Nairobi and Cape Town, and the United Kingdom universities of Bristol, East Anglia and Manchester and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As this research is now in its final stage, the project will host an international symposium in March 2023 at UCT to discuss the project’s and others’ understanding of the intersection of the global challenges of poverty, inequality, and climate change; and how such knowledge can assist finding solutions to the novel development challenges in Africa.

Find us at the UCT exhibition in the Cape Town International Convention Centre, exhibition hall 2, booth number 700.

The Forum takes place from 6–9 December and the plenary events will be livestreamed. Visit the World Science Forum 2022 website.

Written by ACEIR communication manager, Charmaine Smith.