New $5 Million Investment To Train, Support Africa’s Humanities Scholars

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A new $5 million investment by Carnegie Corporation of New York will help cultivate a new generation of African scholars in the humanities to participate in shaping the discussion about the continent’s future as well as to understand and interpret its history. A program will offer fellowships to individual faculty and researchers to pursue high-quality doctoral and postdoctoral research, provide awards enabling scholars to publish, and help establish a network of expert advisers and peer reviewers who will offer counsel and maintain excellence.

In announcing the new investment, Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation said, “By training scholars across the humanities, we are helping to nurture a rising generation of women and men who will contribute to the continued development of democracy and civil society on the African continent. There is no doubt that science, engineering and technology are critical to development, but they alone cannot address Africa’s many complex challenges including deepening democracy, nurturing tolerance, consolidating the protection of human rights, and fostering accountability of public authorities.”

Gregorian added that the initiative grew out of ongoing discussions with vice chancellors at Africa’s leading universities who emphasized the importance of the humanities to development and voiced concern about their relative lack of funding in relation to science, engineering and technology. 
“This grant addresses a vital need,” said Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). “The world needs the knowledge and understanding of human experience that the humanities provide. We want to do our part to assure that African scholars can contribute their distinctive perspective to the growth of that knowledge. ACLS has been honored to partner with the Carnegie Corporation in aiding communities of humanistic scholars in the former Soviet Union, and we look forward to working with the Corporation and with African colleagues on this exciting project.”

Carnegie Corporation will provide a four-year, $5 million grant to the American Council of Learned Societies, which will cooperate with a variety of African institutions – universities, councils for higher education, and other organizations working to develop scholarly capacity in the humanities -- to organize fellowship competitions in five countries: Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The funds will support approximately 200 doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships for researchers and current faculty who, because of their immense teaching loads, have little time to devote to research and publication. The awards will be of particular benefit to faculty who have not yet completed their doctoral dissertations by funding time out to complete the necessary research and writing.

To complement the fellowships, the initiative will support the preparation for publication of manuscripts resulting from postdoctoral research. In addition to these subventions, and to facilitate the management of the initiative, the ACLS will develop a website to facilitate the applications process and to disseminate information about the research and publications sponsored by awards.

The grant will also help establish a knowledge network for humanities researchers and faculty, in part by engaging eminent scholars to lead research-design and writing workshops, advise on program progress, and maintain oversight of research quality. To combat the isolation that so often plagues scholars in Africa, the initiative will promote contact and cooperation among scholarly communities in Africa and other parts of the world, and may include the creation of networked teams of researchers working on issues across and within regional boundaries.

Reflecting on his conversations with African vice chancellors on the importance of the humanities, Gregorian said, “As the living storehouse of a society’s patrimony, the humanities are not a luxury, but a vital and indispensable part of our collective consciousness. By helping us to better understand ourselves as individuals and as a civilization, the humanities are one of the most important ways that we can interpret and pass on what we have learned from our experiences in the world.”

While building on its decade-long institutional support for universities and libraries, Carnegie Corporation is investing in the African Humanities Program and other initiatives to cultivate and harness individual skills in the sciences and humanities, including a regional initiative to help increase the number of well-trained university faculty capable of teaching the next generation of African scientists and engineers.

The African Humanities Program is modeled after an ACLS humanities program in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, also funded by Carnegie Corporation. Created in 1998, the program has provided over 600 fellowships to individuals doing exemplary work, so as to ensure continued future leadership in the humanities.


The American Council of Learned Societies, established in 1919, today consists of 70 professional societies of scholars committed to the advancement of humanistic studies in all fields of learning. Since the 1930s the ACLS has promoted international studies focusing primarily on Eurasia, Eastern Europe and East Asia. Recently the ACLS has begun to develop partnerships with leading African institutions of higher education and other organizations devoted to the development of humanities scholarship in Africa.


Carnegie Corporation of New York was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.”

Under Andrew Carnegie's will, grants must benefit the people of the United States, although up to 7.4 percent of the funds may be used for the same purpose in countries that are or have been members of the British Commonwealth, with a current emphasis on Commonwealth Africa.