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Academic exchange with Africa strengthens with Freiburg’s help

The University of Freiburg will receive a subsidy for the “Merian International Centre for Advanced Studies in Africa”, making it the hub for African studies in Germany

Freiburg, Oct 20, 2017

Academic exchange with Africa strengthens with Freiburg’s help

Fotos: ABI, Guido Kirsch; Montage: Sandra Meyndt

Strengthening African viewpoints in science and politics: The goal of the newly founded “Merian International Centre for Advanced Studies in Africa“ (MICAS Africa) is to develop an intellectual program and research agenda that can make the significance of African knowledge production more visible in its effect. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the center with 1.7 million euros under the name “Maria Sibylla Merian Centre” during the initial phase until August 2020. The entire funding over the expected span of 12 years will be up to 18 million euros in total. The University of Freiburg is primarily responsible for its structuring and coordination, together with the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) and the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute for Cultural Science Research (ABI).

The “Merian International Centre for Advanced Studies in Africa” (MICAS Africa) will be headquartered at the University of Ghana in Accra with a second office location at the Centre de Recherches sur les Politiques sociales in Dakar, Senegal. MICAS Africa is slated to open mid-2018. The German partners include the German Historical Institute Paris as a member of the Max Weber Foundation, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, the University of Konstanz and the Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies (ZIAF) at the University of Frankfurt.

The consortium under Freiburg’s leadership is placing its main emphasis on sustainable governance. In the beginning, issues such as migration, democratic consolidation and ecological restructuring will be the focus of interdisciplinary work conducted by excellent scientists in various fields. One of the main objectives for MICAS Africa is to make a significant contribution to tearing down the global imbalance in knowledge. This should be achieved through the planned years-long cooperation amongst top researchers as well as young researchers from Africa and the entire world.

Through this project many African guest researchers will come to Freiburg. The University of Freiburg will develop a Centre for African Studies and greatly intensify its cooperation with the University of Basel regarding research in and with Africa – a further cornerstone being Eucor – The European Campus, the consortium of universities in the Upper Rhine. MICAS Africa is also significant in helping the University of Freiburg attain its goal of finding a partner university in Africa.


  • “I am thrilled two universities from Baden-Württemberg, both Freiburg and Konstanz, both of which are strong in research will actively shape the academic exchange between Germany and Africa. Future issues such as migration, sustainable democracy or ecological restructuring in societies can only be explored through an exchange between North and South and across disciplines. The Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI) is predestined to actively shape this dialogue. Relying on its extensive expertise, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) will be able to add further to building an international research college.”

Theresia Bauer, Minister of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg

  • “Freiburg has emerged as an essential center for Africa studies in Germany thanks to this achievement. Along with Asian studies, which has been one of the most important featured subjects at our university for years, we will be able to consistently develop yet another significant regional research focus.”

Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, Rector for the University of Freiburg

  • “The University of Ghana is a unique place in the scholarly world, combining what Africa has to offer intellectually, with a fully international mindset. My colleagues and I will not spare any efforts to make MICAS Africa a success."

Prof. Ebenezer Owusu, Rector for the University of Ghana


Press release from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Further information on the project can be found at:


Information about the partner institutions


Maria Sibylla Merian Centres

With the international research colleges “Maria Sibylla Merian Centres”, the BMBF seeks to promote the internationalization of the humanities, cultural and social sciences in Germany through close cooperation with bilateral and multilateral projects in locations outside of Germany. For this purpose, colleges in scientifically and politically important regions and partner countries in Asian, Latin America and Africa should emerge in which a group of scientists form Germany and the host country can conduct joint research on issues related to the humanities and social science and invite fellows to get involved on a regular basis. The colleges will be developed and operated in partnership with German academic institutions.


Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI)

The Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI) was founded in 1960 as an independent workplace for social sciences and cultural science research in Freiburg. In 2008 it attained the status of an institute associated with the University by reaching a cooperation agreement with the University of Freiburg. ABI conducts research in the areas of politics and society in Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Middle East on topics relating to conflict and migration, state and governance as well as resource policy. Along with research, knowledge transfer to the broader public and to development policy practices as well as consulting on development and international policy-making are a part of ABI’s mission. Because of the rising importance in the issues ABI addresses, the state grant will increase from 80,000 euros to 740,000 euros annually starting in 2018 – subject to the budgetary legislator’s approval. With this increase, the state will enable ABI additional financial freedom to realize its future strategy and to build on its existing research capabilities.


Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) is the international research college at the University of Freiburg. As an integral part of the University, the Institute unifies the humanities and social sciences with medicine, life sciences, natural sciences and engineering under one roof. Leading researchers (senior fellows) as well as exceptional new recruits (junior fellows) from Freiburg and around the world work at FRIAS in order to dedicate their entire focus on their scientific project for a limited amount of time. It strengthens the worldwide network of Freiburg researchers as well as the international visibility for the research conducted at the University of Freiburg. One important issue for the Institute is to make the research projects at FRIAS and the larger research questions that are of particular societal relevance more widely public and understandable throughout the university, especially amongst the students, but also for the broader citywide public through special events.



Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler
Department of Political Science / Arnold Bergstraesser Institute
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/88878-14

Prof. Dr. Bernd Kortmann
Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-97317