Over the last seven years CICRED has greatly increased the number of African centres in its network. There is now a need to make this development more concrete through the building of cooperative inter-centre research programmes. This capacity has been demonstrated in the highly successful project on Resettlement of Areas in which Volta River Blindness has been eliminated.

On December 5th,1999 a number of African member-centres of the CICRED network met in Durban, South Africa to identify issues of importance to African researchers. They then prioritised these issues. Finally they looked at modalities for the first steps towards implementing research on the three themes prioritised.

This report describes that meeting.


The African Population Conference at Durban provided a window of opportunity for the CICRED Secretariat to organize a mini-assembly of those Centres that had members who were able to attend the conference. CICRED's meeting took place all day, from 9 am to 5 pm on the Sunday before the conference formally got under way. Sixteen centres were represented, ranging from Cairo, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, to Durban and Botswana, and Abidjan, Ghana and Bamako, and others in between. The total number of participants was 22, including only three persons who were not African (see Annex for full list of participants). They came from the Secretariat of CICRED and played merely a facilitating role. They were Francis Gendreau (President), Philippe Collomb (Director) and Ian Pool (Consultant; appointed Rapporteur by the meeting). The two African CICRED Council members, Drs. Eliwo Akoto and Kobus Oosthuizen, were both present. Dr. Akoto chaired the meeting. Dr. Oosthuizen outlined the management issues and some of the results of a cooperative project on internal migration involving South Africa, Ethiopia and several non-African countries. This project provides a useful template for the advantages and problems inherent in cooperative research. The Volta River Blindness project noted above was also referred to several times in this meeting both in this context and in the way it led through from research to policy.

The morning was given over to identifying a list of issues, then paring this list down.

CICRED hosted a lunch for the participants, during which minutes of the morning session were distributed. This report draws heavily on that interim meeting report.

The first part of the afternoon was given over to setting priorities, out of which a set of three issues was identified and delineated further. The remainder of the day was committed to suggesting modalities by which the first steps towards cooperative inter-centre research could be initiated and implemented.

Population Change and Development Challenges

The active participation of a well-known African demographer, formerly Director of CERPOD (Bamako), turned political leader, His Excellency Nassour G. Ouaidou, Prime Minister of Chad, strongly underlined the applied policy direction adopted by all the participants. The Prime Minister outlined both the need for such an applied approach, and, "wearing his politician's hat" discussed the gap between research output and policy formulation. Researchers need to be more active in bringing their findings to "end-users". He emphasized the need for researchers not only to be aware of policy initiatives, but also to avail themselves of documentation which would help them understand more the needs of policy-makers: for example, legislative and constitutional documents.

His Excellency's message was not merely listened to and understood by the other participants, but his intervention legitimized and prepared the ground for others who strongly endorsed this applied focus. Interestingly, this was also a theme which was echoed throughout the main conference by keynote and other speakers. Clearly, African demography is taking a lead in moving the field from a narrower interest in scientific analysis to wider concerns about the policy implications of population change.

The CICRED meeting went a very long distance towards making more concrete this general consensus about population and development. It provided a baseline for rigorous research which would address these issues, and which eventually would strengthen the knowledge base available to African leaders.

Identifying and Prioritising Issues

Representatives of the centres first identified almost a dozen research issues they felt were important for Africa. This "shopping list" was then refined in three ways:

  1. Using a set of criteria formulated during the meeting (see below), three high priority themes were identified;
  2. Where possible other related themes were integrated into these priority themes;
  3. Recognising that many factors of population and development were highly interrelated, the three themes were seen as part of a broader portfolio. In fact the meeting saw them as sub-themes rather than independent research questions, thereby stressing that elements of each may have to be taken into account in research on the others.

The criteria employed to prioritise were as follows:

      1. Short-term and long-term?
      2. Micro and macro?
      3. Sectoral and inter-sectoral?

The Broader Portfolio and its Sub-themes

All Africans at the meeting were insistent on a need to pursue research on the development implications of demographic trends and population structural shifts, and on the demographic impacts of policy. To this end they adopted a broad umbrella term for the undertaking. This was given the title "POPULATION CHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES" ("DYNAMIQUES DEMOGRAPHIQUES ET DEFIS DU DEVELOPPEMENT").

Then three sub-themes under it were selected and delineated as follows (in no particular order):

  2. Here participants picked up a point recently emerging in the speeches and meetings of African leaders: the need to understand and plan for the impacts of AIDS. Clearly much needs to be done on the epidemiology of AIDS, but there is now an even more urgent need to look at the developmental impacts of the epidemic. In this context, the South African migration study (referred to above) reported that the prevalence of AIDS in rural areas may equal that in urban. This finding clearly carries profound implications for rural populations, still the majority in most countries, and thus for development.

  4. In this case there was a strong underlining of the effects of both politics and policy on population mobility. Again the developmental impacts were emphasized.


This sub-theme would study the interrelations between (i) the family and households, (ii) changes in population growth and related shifts in structures (e.g. by age, cohort, place of residence, ethnicity, within the labour force, etc.), and (iii) Africa's human capital. Clearly it would involve macro-micro linkages. Moreover the fact that these shifts have differential effects on different sectors ensures that there is a direct link to policy. Competition between demographically-driven needs could have inter-sectoral consequences.

Modalities for initiating Inter-Centre Research

The centres then took up the more bread-and-butter issue of modalities. They settled on the idea of thematic, task-oriented workshops, one per sub-theme. These would bring together Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone centres, from different geographical zones, dedicated to setting out and defining precisely protocols relating both to substantive questions (analytical frameworks, standardized methodologies, etc.) and cooperative agreements. Three centres present at the meeting immediately offered to host different workshops in areas in which they had some degree of prior expertise. The centres were (this listing does not imply any date order or sequencing):

SUB-THEME 1: University of Botswana (Population and Sustainable Development)


SUB-THEME 3: Cairo Demographic Centre (CDC)

Finally, the centres set out what they saw as the role of CICRED's Secretariat at the next stage. It will be to communicate with centres, particularly those which were not able to get to the assembly. CICRED also is to coordinate a collective approach to donors, and to give technical support to the workshops. And it will facilitate the publication and diffusion of research outputs.

Other Aspects of the Meeting

Beyond all this, there were several other critical dimensions to this meeting. Firstly and most importantly, it was a meeting chaired by an African centre Director (Dr. Eliwo Akoto of IFORD), and driven by the centres themselves, not by CICRED's Secretariat, or any other external agency. The role of CICRED's Secretariat was minor - Philippe Collomb (CICRED's Director) briefly opened the meeting speaking entirely in English; and Francis Gendreau (CICRED Council President) provided a brief resume in French to close it. The identification of issues and of modalities for cooperation were, therefore, centre-driven, not agency- or donor-driven.

Indeed participants specifically noted the point that by adopting a carefully enunciated joint position this would give collective strength for approaches to donor agencies. Where an approach by one centre might not receive favour, donors will find it more difficult to determine agendas if a number of centres come up with the same carefully thought out request based on a pan-African review of research priorities.

Secondly, there was no indication of linguistic or cultural differences. Participants used either English or French, with no simultaneous translation, and no evident significant problems of comprehension. More interesting was the degree of unanimity surmounting three distinct intellectual traditions: Anglo-American, French and Middle Eastern.

Thirdly, the participants focused on inter-centre cooperation within Africa. Nevertheless, where appropriate, so they argued, they would welcome collaboration with research teams working on similar problems in other global regions. There were both methodological and substantive reasons for such a strategy.

(Meeting Report by Ian Pool, CICRED Consultant, who was appointed Rapporteur by the meeting; a report on the morning deliberations was prepared and given to participants after lunch by the Rapporteur and checked by them)


Annex: Participants

Ian Pool

Cicred Consultant

Daniel M. Sala-Diakanda

UNFPA Representative, Tchad

E.K. Campbell

University of Botswana

E.O. Tawiah


University of Ghana

J.O. Oucho

Population & Sustainable Development

University of Botswana

B.A. Hibbert

South African National Population Unit

Elias H.O. Ayiemba

Department of Geography

University of Nairobi - Kenya

Ndalahwa F. Madulu

Institute of Resource Assessment

University of Dar es Salaam - Tanzania

Mohammed Mazouz

UNFPA Global Programme

Daad Fouad

Cairo Demographic Centre

Akoto Eliwo M.

IFORD / Yaoundé - Cameroun

Traore Baba

CERPOD / Bamako - Mali

Koffi N'Guessan

ENSEA, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (RCI)

Mumpasi Lututala

Department of Demography

University of Kinshasa.- Congo

Oosthuizen Kobus

Centre for Population Studies

University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Peter Ubomba-Jaswa

Applied Population Sciences Training & Research (APSTAR) - School of Development Studies - University of Natal - Durban 4001 - South Africa

Benjamin Zanou

ENSEA, Abidjan Côte d'Ivoire

Nassour G. Ouaïdou


ABC Ocholla-Ayayo

PSRI - Nairobi - Kenya

Robert Shell

Population Research Unit (PRU)

Rhodes University (South Africa)

Francis Gendreau


Philippe Collomb


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