UQ and Sub-Saharan Africa

Global connections for healthy communities

At a time when Australia is developing strong economic partnerships with African states, UQ is working hand-in-hand with the region's leading institutions and organisations to find answers to some of the biggest challenges of our time – such as security, conservation, and developing youth capacity.

Fast facts


Sub-Saharan African students enrolled at UQ


UQ co-publications


academic staff born in Sub-Saharan Africa


research project collaborations


alumni in sub-Saharan Africa


agreements with 2 official partners

Fast facts show full-year 2020 data.



In the past 5 years, UQ has produced 1101 co-publications with researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely in the areas of Public, Environmental & Occupational Health, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences. Our top co-publishers were the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, and the University of Witwatersrand, all in South Africa.

Research collaboration

In the past 5 years, UQ has collaborated with 3 Sub-Saharan African institutions on 3 research projects. Key collaborators include Stellenbosch University, Jimma University, and Sokoine University of Agriculture.

Research funding

Sub-Saharan African organisations, including Anglo Operations (South Africa), International Development Research Centre - Africa,  and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Nigeria), have contributed A$5,079,789 to fund 26 research projects in the past 5 years.

Collaboration in action

Rewriting our evolutionary history

Prehistoric secrets from the early hominin ancestors of humans that lived 3.4 million years ago are being revealed by an international team of researchers. UQ researcher Dr Benjamin Schoville is part of the research group, led by University of Cape Town’s Dr Robyn Pickering, dating fossils in caves in South Africa. The research provides a new understanding for the evolutionary context of the hominin ancestors of humans. “It changes how we understand the evolutionary history and behaviour of the hominins that lived in the Cradle of Humankind,” Dr Schoville said. (Field photograph of massive flowstone layers from one of the South African hominin caves, with red cave sediments underneath. Photo credit: Robyn Pickering.)

How cobras developed flesh-eating venom

UQ scientist A/Professor Bryan Fry led an international study that revealed how cobras developed their venom. The research team – which involved scientists from UQ’s Venom Evolution Lab, School of Medicine, Snakebite Assist (Pretoria), and Pretoria University – studied 29 cobra species and related snakes, finding flesh-destroying venom first evolved alongside the broad hoods that make cobras so distinctive. “For the longest time it was thought that only spitting cobras had these defensive toxins in high amounts in their venoms, however we’ve shown that they are widespread in cobras," Dr Fry said. "These results show the fundamental importance of studying basic evolution and how it relates to human health.” The team’s followup study showed that the antivenom performs very poorly against cobra effects on the blood.


UQ International Development making a difference

UQ International Development’s Australia Awards-Africa Agribusiness short course is one of their longest-running and most successful courses. The course has contributed to the development of agribusiness in 15 African nations by enhancing people’s working lives through a holistic and highly practical approach to value chain development: ‘value chain approach’. Over 100 mid-to-senior-level professionals employed in policy, practice and research roles for government agencies, civil society organisations and private sector companies have completed the course. (Video: watch Janet Nwaekpe talk about her perspective on Nigeria's ginger production and improving the domestic market.)

Building youth capacities in Burkina Faso

Through its Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CRSM), UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) is working with the Ministry of Education in Burkina Faso to improve vocational and technical training for youth aged 13 to 18, with a strong emphasis on advancing opportunities for girls. The project is implemented by NGO Plan Burkina Faso, in close collaboration with private sector stakeholders and local communities. The active involvement of Canadian mining IAMGOLD offers a unique opportunity for young people to see where their training could lead; IAMGOLD employees regularly visit the training centres to share their experiences and the company organises week-long observation internships for 90 graduates each year at the mine site.

Our singing anthropologist

School of Social Science PhD student Tribute 'Birdie' Jabulile Mboweni is managing a music career that stems from her life in South Africa as well as her studies at UQ. Her research is on the contemporary human-land interactions in the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in South Africa. She will study and map the values that the communities who interact with the landscape attach to it, as well as the political factors that affect not only these interactions, but also access to the landscape in post-apartheid South Africa. This is against the backdrop of South Africa’s legacy of the forceful removal of Indigenous communities from their land and their exclusion from the conservation enterprise. University of Pretoria Professor in Archaeology, Innocent Pikirayi, is on Birdie's advisory team; a research agreement also exists with the South African National Parks.


Value-chain development for traditional African vegetables

Australia Awards in Africa alumna, Meab Mdimi, works for an agribusiness non-government organisation in Tanzania. Since completing the short course, she has worked with farmers to help build their capacity and linkages to market and value-chain. Meab said value-chain principals are crucial to the performance of Africa’s economy and, if expertly coordinated, can benefit all stakeholders – from farmers to consumers. After recently being awarded a UQ PhD scholarship, Meab will continue to research nutrition and value-chain development for traditional African vegetables.

Sub-Saharan African students at UQ

In the past 5 years, 574 students from Sub-Saharan Africa have been enrolled in UQ degrees. PhD studies, the Master of Environmental Management, Master of Public Health, and Master of Agribusiness are popular program choices.

Student societies at UQ provide great opportunities to share interests and build community; they include the African Students Association, wildlife protection group UQ for Africa, and a wide range of faith groups

Video: Bakani Butale, from Botswana, is a recent Bachelor of Science graduate (2017). He was chosen as a Brisbane International Student Ambassador in 2015 and was also a recipient of the UQ Science International Scholarship.

Celebrating African cultures


Nkosana Mafico, a UQ Bachelor of Business Management honours graduate, PhD student and entrepreneur originally from Zimbabwe, is passionate about changing perceptions of Africa and equipping young people with the knowledge, skills, network, and resources to create change. He founded the Council for Young Africans Living Abroad, which aims to develop young Africans into borderless thinkers and future leaders, and ultimately drive social and economic change across the continent.

At UQ, you can study some of the major languages spoken in sub-Saharan Africa without enrolling in a degree – including Swahili, Portuguese, and French – through the Institute of Modern Languages (IML).

Video: Nkosana Mafico talks about his entrepreneurial journey, from taking part in the Incubate program at UQ's ilab to starting a mission-based organisation.

Student mobility

Australia Awards (Africa) scholarships

Australia Awards (Africa) scholarship recipients from Mozambique recently graduated from UQ with masters degrees after learning English through an Institute of Continuing & TESOL Education (ICTE-UQ) English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course in Pretoria, South Africa. The course was run in conjunction with UQ's International Development team, which has an ongoing relationship with the University of Pretoria to deliver a number of training programs, including components of the International Diplomacy, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), and Organisational and Employee Short Course Programs.

South African study

The School of Agriculture and Food Sciences offers international study tours to undergraduates so they can understand and analyse key issues relating to the management of animals and natural resources overseas. The 3-week tour has previously taken Applied Science, Sustainable Agriculture, and Wildlife Science students to South Africa, where they collaborate with rural communities, and national and international institutions, such as the Southern African Wildlife College and the World Wildlife Fund.

UQ students can also study part of their degree at the University of Cape Town.


UQ has 1075 alumni living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Alumni from or living in the region include:


Public Health Consultant; Provincial Coordinator of the Ariel Foundation; Alumni Ambassador for the Australia Awards program; UQ International Alumnus of the Year 2013 (Master of Public Health 2005)

Researcher and poet; 2016 Lynsey Welsh Award winner for innovation in near infrared science (Doctor of Philosophy 2017)
South Africa

Vice President at South African Airways (Bachelor of Economy 2001)

Australian Ambassador to Ethiopia (Bachelor of Arts 1983, Bachelor of Laws 1984, Bachelor of Arts (Hons) 1985)