The African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI) is the University of Cape Town’s collective response to the challenge of climate change in the context of sustainable development in Africa.
ACDI is an inter- and transdisciplinary research and training Institute that brings together academics across UCT and beyond, NGOs, business, civil society and government to co-produce and test new insights, evidence and innovations that will help to solve Africa's climate and development challenges.
ACDI was established in 2011 by the Vice Chancellor as a Strategic Initiative, to “facilitate and substantially extend climate research and education at UCT with the specific context of addressing the development challenges of Africa from an African perspective”. In 2016, ACDI produced a detailed review reporting on its first five-year phase (2011-2015), available here.
ACDI surpassed its initial mandate as VC Strategic Initiative, and achieved formal UCT Institute status in 2018. As an Institute, ACDI centralises support resources to maximise its ability to enable inter- and transdisciplinary research and teaching spread across the university, strengthen the sustainability agenda at UCT, and achieve greater impact.
Vision: ACDI’s vision is of a developing world that has transitioned to an equitable, sustainable, low-carbon development trajectory.
ACDI works towards this vision by a suite of activities framed around three goals:
Goal 1: To enable and facilitate innovative inter- and transdisciplinary research on issues at the nexus of climate change and development through partnerships within UCT, and across South Africa, Africa, and globally.
Goal 2: To foster a new generation of African researchers and practitioners who have the knowledge, experience and competencies to address complex climate change challenges at multiple scales, and in multiple contexts.
Goal 3: To promote well-informed climate response strategies, planning, implementation and decision-making through targeted networking and stakeholder engagements, and proactive communication and dissemination of UCT climate change and development research and expertise.
The need for the ACDI
Africa is rapidly changing. Its population is forecast to double by 2050, and double again by 2100. The majority of these additional billions of people will be living in urban areas, but at the same time there will remain a large population in rural areas dependent on natural resources. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as set out by the United Nations, is the development challenge for the continent. Despite a decrease in the percentage of people in Africa experiencing deprivation, the absolute number of people in this situation continues to decrease, as the continent struggles to keep pace with the demographic changes that are occurring.
Climate change adds to this development challenge. Much of the continent is arid, semi-arid and sub-humid, with associated climate risks relating to temperature and rainfall variability and stress. Vulnerability to these risks is high in many instances, because of development deficits. Climate change is expected in many cases to exacerbate these vulnerabilities, potentially slowing or reversing development advances. Therefore development that is well adapted to current and emerging climate risks is fundamental to broader socio-economic development outcomes.
The importance of climate change for development is reflected by in Sustainable Development Goal 13, to “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, but the multidimensional nature of climate change is also reflected in the way it intersects with many other SDGs such as SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).
ACDI draws together a network of researchers at UCT and beyond to engage with ACDI in various ways, from teaching and student project supervision, to research and knowledge influencing.
ACDI’s core team acts as a hub, which aims to provide the services that enable the network to be more than the sum of its parts. ACDI’s core comprises the Director and Deputy Director, administrative support staff, a research management team, an education and training management team, and a communications and networking team. Additionally, the HQ includes a number of students, Postdoctoral research fellows, and project managers who work on ACDI-led projects in collaboration with the ACDI network, and the ACDI Masters Convener, who coordinates all aspects of the flagship ACDI Masters in Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
ACDI’s offers both institutional and individual membership. The aim is to be inclusive, in the spirit of collaboration and community-building, rather than exclusive.
Institutional membership involves both recognised research groupings, academic departments and other university entities whose area of work intersects strongly with ACDI, and who have a history of active membership of ACDI.
Individual members are known as Associates, and are people at UCT who actively engage with ACDI through research, teaching, student supervision or other activities. Associates may or may not be jointly-affiliated to an institutional member. Associates will have research and teaching interests that overlap substantially with the ACDI intellectual domains.
Student members are Honours, Masters and PhD students whose research or courses fit within the broad ACDI research domain. Often, they are supervised by ACDI members, but they may also choose to self-affiliate.