Research Focus

The Research of the South African - German Centre for Development Research (CDR) can be devided into two groups. The first refers to the research work that is implicitly or explicitly supported by CDR-funds. The second comprises research without such funding.


(1) Research supported by CDR

In all of the academic programmes of CDR it is expected that Master- and PhD-students undertake theory based empirical research on real-world development problems in Sub-Sahara Africa. The research work includes a literature survey on the topic chosen, the preparation of an empirical research design, the collection of data during a field research period (field research period for Master-students: three to four months, for PhD-students: 6 to 9 months).

To date (September 2018) 16 PhD projects compelted by CDR PhD scholarship holders so far have been published (topics and links to publication are available here) and 8 projects are still ongoing. Adding to that, 58 CDR-supported Master-students have finalized their research work, 12 of them completed two Master degrees of the CDR. Topics and links to published MA Theses are available here. 16 additional Master Thesis projects are still underway.

So, from the very beginning of their studies graduates and doctoral candidates are actively encouraged to participate in CDR's research work. In terms of topics the research work of the Master- and PhD-students follow the core research areas of CDR. Table 1 provides an overview. Due to the empirical orientation of research CDR has accumulated broad regional expertise.


CDR's core research areas
Social policies for reducing poverty: Income grants and social insurance schemes (ISD)
Health studies: Improving health sector's effectiveness; infectious diseases' impacts on productivity and poverty (SoG and IEE)
Fostering communities participation in shaping development: Frameworks for empowerment and impacts on the effectiveness of development interventions (SoG)
Providing finance, education, infrastructure, and technology: Rigorous assessment of impacts on income and expenditures, welfare and poverty (IEE and ISD)
Use of water, land, and environment including resource conflicts (ISD and IEE)
Public sector reform: Frameworks for and effects of (fiscal) decentralization, new public management and anti-corruption measures (SoG)
Democratization and the role of political parties (SoG)
Trade, migration, ODA and economic growth (IEE)


(2) Other research - to be updated

ACCEDE: Two staff members of the ISD are registered with ACCEDE and participating in research projects run by the centre as part of their PhD thesis.

Oxford University: Recently, ISD and Oxford University-Centre for the Analysis of South African Social Policy (CASASP) undertook a collaborative research on "The Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) in South Africa". The proposed collaborative research project is financed by collaboration between the office of the Presidency, SA and the EU. It is a project that intend at enabling important decision makers to advance their capacity to design policies, as well as more efficiently target future intervention areas within their scope of work. The PSPPD is a complementary programme to the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) in SA panel. As part of the collaborative programme ISD and CASASP have given a task to develop the NIDS dataset that will be used to further build the evidence-base in social science research using a micro-simulation model.

Department of Economics and Presidency of South Africa: ISD is undertaking research into the main causes of underperforming schools in the Western Cape in collaboration with the Department of Economics at UWC. This research project was one of 11 chosen from a total of 59 submissions. The study forms part of a pro poor policy initiative located in the Presidency of South Africa. The research is funded by the European Union. The pre empirical phase started in October 2009 and the duration terminates December 2010. The research will afford a number of academics and Masters Students the opportunity to become part of a strategically important and topical research initiative.

DRD-related research at IEE: Financially supported by the Tokyo Foundation's SYLFF-programme IEE members are doing research on stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS (Stefan Buchholz) and on Xenophopia (Jens Blank) in South Africa. Further HIV/AIDS-related research is done by Wilhelm Löwenstein/Beneberu Assefa Wondimagnegnhu on effects the disease brings about on income and poverty of poor rural farming households in Ethiopia. Martina Lembani in her PhD thesis is looking for cost effectiveness of ART in Malawi. Britta Niklas is involved in a research group that is doing an investigation of South African 'black economic empowerment (BEE) wines'. The group is interested to see whether wine consumers (in South Africa and Europe) are willing to pay higher prices for wines produced by BEE-supported wine farmers. Mathias Busse, together with colleagues from RUB and from outside is/was doing research on Characteristics and Determinants of FDI in Ghana, on the Growth Performance of Sub-Saharan African Countries and on Trade, Labour Market Regulations, and Growth, whereas Dieter Bender and Wilhelm Löwenstein concentrated on the potentially immiserizing effects of financing development from international credits.

Latest News

Visit of two members of the German Federal Parliament and the Consul General at the SA-GER CDR

On 7th February the two members of the “German Federal Parliament”, Ulla Schmidt und Dagmar Freitag, who stayed in South Africa for taking part in the 2019 State of the Nation Address by the South African President Cyral Ramaphosa, used the opportunity to as well visit two DAAD funded Centres of Excellence in Cape Town together with the Consul General Matthias Hansen.They first visited the African Institute for Mathematical Studies (AIMS) in Muizenberg and afterwards the South African-German Centre for Development Research (SA-GER CDR).

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10-year anniversary of the Centres of Excellence

On the occasion of the ten-year anniversary of the Centres of African Excellence initiative by the Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD, a large network meeting was held in Berlin.
There are now ten university Centres of African Excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa, set up to train highly qualified future managers and leaders in Africa by significantly contributing to the quality and relevance of selected disciplines at African universities, to the creation of research capacities to the establishment of networks between African universities and research institutes including German partners.

The SA-GER CDR Team in Berlin: (from left): Isioma Ille, Stefan Buchholz, Britta Niklas, Gabriele Bäcker, Mulugeta Dinbabo and Ina Conradie

For the achievements of the South African-German Centre for Development Research and for more information on the network meeting please have a look at the upcoming IEE-Newsletter (December 2018).