Priority Research Areas
For Mawazo’s first full year of operations in 2018, the priority areas for our in-house Research Fellows are energy and climate change. Both of these sectors are crucial for long-run economic growth and improved quality of life in countries like Kenya. They also build on the expertise of Mawazo co-founder Rose Mutiso, who holds a PhD in engineering and has worked on both technology and policy aspects of clean energy and climate change mitigation for the US Department of Energy.
Energy sector issues are increasingly rising to the forefront of the global development agenda, as governments and aid donors recognise its key role in driving progress across all other development sectors. After all, it’s difficult to run successful businesses or develop world-class universities without consistent access to electricity. Indeed, research shows a strong correlation between GDP and electrification rates. An estimated 65% of all people in sub- Saharan Africa still lack access to electricity and another over 80% rely on traditional use of biomass for cooking, which is holding back socio-economic growth in the region. Lack of electricity also exerts a disproportionate burden on citizens who are relatively poor, who spend a larger share of their income to meet their energy needs, and are exposed to more toxic pollutants associated with fuel-based lighting.
There are numerous technology, policy, and financial barriers to achieving universal energy access in the region, and much research is required to understand the suitable pathways that optimise the myriad environmental, economic, and social trade-offs inherent in every energy sector issue. As a starting point, Mawazo is planning a collaboration with a small group of local researchers to build a database of sector-wide data across key indicators, as well as produce accessible synthesis and analysis of this data to help improve understanding of the state of energy in Kenya.
Climate change is one of the biggest contemporary threats to global development and human prosperity. The effects of climate change are not simply limited to global warming, but also include climate instability – increases in extreme weather events, and changes in patterns of rainfall and average temperature. For the large majority of African citizens who grow their own food, depend on lakes and rivers for their water, and use biomass such as wood for fuel, a changing climate threatens their entire livelihoods. Researchers have an important role to play in coming up with new ideas that will help African populations adapt to climate change and build resilience against climate shocks. Mawazo will fund research projects that add much needed local perspective on this issue, including support for projects that evaluate and prioritise local climate risks, demonstrate effective policies, and identify promising pathways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.