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Call for Applications: Preparing Outstanding Social Science Investigators to Benefit Lives and Environments in Africa Programme (POSSIBLE- Africa Fellowship Programme)

Deadline: Friday, January 13, 2023

The POSSIBLE- Africa Fellowship Programme is a 24-month early postdoctoral fellowship opportunity for outstanding African scholars in the Social Sciences & Humanities, who propose research that aims to create evidence to inform sustainable development within the African continent. POSSIBLE- Africa is a programme of the Science for Africa Foundation (SFA Foundation) that is being implemented with funding support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The fellowship opportunity also aligns with the goal of SFA Foundation to address the continent’s most pressing developmental needs by generating knowledge that solves problems and informs decision-making.  

The fellowship aims to build a critical mass of independent African research leaders in the SS&H to lead science programmes at local and international levels. These leaders will have the capacity to engage successfully with funders, policy makers, communities, and other stakeholders, and to serve as mentors and supervisors for the next generation of researchers in Africa.  

The objectives of the fellowship programme are:  

  1. To form a high-quality and equitable cohort of postdoctoral fellows in the social sciences and humanities (SS&H).  
  2. To develop emerging independent research leaders and enhance training in SS&H.  
  3. To establish a SS&H advisory board to guide POSSIBLE Africa fellowships and other SS&H initiatives of SFA Foundation.  

Total requested budget

US$ 65,000 utilised over 24 months.

This call is open to eligible applicants from all African countries.

Key dates

Application window opens:

Oct 10, 2022

Webinar for applicants:

Watch the Recording

Application window closes: 

January 13, 2023 | 1700hrs EAT


Feb 13 – Apr 07, 2023


May 22 – June 9, 2023

Final selection:

Jun 23, 2023

Awards and onboarding:

Sep 1 – 30, 2023


Oct 2, 2023 – Sep 30, 2025


Award Details

Award Period 

The first phase of the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship programme will run over a period of 24 months; starting in October 2023 and closing in September 2025.  

Total Awards 

The POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship programme will provide funding of up to USD 65,000 to 15-25 emerging SS&H leaders to conduct research addressing topics related to regional goals and those of SFA Foundation. The opportunity will be open to African scholars proposing to conduct research at a higher education institution or research centre in any African country. At least 50% will be women, with at least 2 from each regional block of the continent (Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Northern Africa, and Southern Africa). 

Fellowship Activities

The fellowship programme will include SFA Foundation’s coordinated learning and related activities that will provide research and professional capacity strengthening opportunities for POSSIBLE-Africa fellows: These activities include:  

Original research

All fellows will be expected to propose and conduct a programme of research about an eligible research topic. Fellows should include all expected costs of research field work, learning courses, conferences and related in their fellowship budget (see below for further details). A detailed research proposal must be submitted as part of the application. 

Formal learning

  • Advanced social research methods and theory course (12 weeks)

The fellowship will incorporate a methods and theory short course which will provide POSSIBLE-Africa fellows opportunities to develop advanced research knowledge and skills, as well as network with each other and senior social scientists who facilitate the course.  

  • Fellow selected learning opportunities

In addition to the short course, fellows will be expected to include funding in their budgets to enable participation in a minimum of 40 hours of additional formal learning to address gaps in their research and related skills. Learning opportunities that address the full range of knowledge and skills required by research leaders could be included in the budget, so long as they will be justified in relation to a skill or knowledge the fellow will have identified as requiring strengthening. They may include intensive writing retreats, research skills workshops before and after conferences or any other formal learning opportunities, the scholar can justify in relation to their research and career goals. 

There will be an opportunity for networking with other SS&H fellows. They will be linked to an intensive structured learning programme designed to develop skills and knowledge in the following research areas: (1) critical thinking and the role of theory in SS&H (2) developing SS&H research questions (3) decolonizing qualitative and/or quantitative research methods (4) designing research tools, (5) qualitative and/or quantitative analysis techniques, (6) writing up results for scientific publication, (7) preparing results for policy and community audiences, (8) writing research grants and (9) using African research to develop and/or adapt undergraduate curricula at African higher education institutions. 

Grant application development

Successful applicants will be expected to develop and submit a new research grant application which if funded, will enable them to build on the research conducted through the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship. Fellows will be guided to identify funding opportunities and develop their proposal during their fellowship. They will be expected to submit the application before the completion of their fellowship. 

Policy engagement, advocacy activities and public outreach

All POSSIBLE-Africa fellows will be expected to implement at least one policy engagement activity or public engagement activity. Virtual policy engagement training will be provided as part of the fellowship. Examples of engagement activities that might fulfil the requirements of the fellowship include:

  • Hosting a workshop to include policy makers in co-creating one or more aspect/s of the research.
  • Producing and disseminating a policy brief that showcases research results. 
  • Hosting a meeting of policy makers to orally present the research results. 
  • Writing a report based on experiences as a POSSIBLE-Africa fellow showcasing (1) the need for and value of SS&H research (2) the benefits of dedicated research time in the postdoctoral period and/or (3) the ways in which social scientists can utilize their results to decolonize Eurocentric and/or create new Afrocentric curriculum for higher education institutions. 
  • Writing a piece for public media based on fellow’s research.

Examples of policy makers that would make an appropriate target audience for different types of policy activities include: 

  • Policy makers with a portfolio relevant to the fellow’s research topic (all activities) 
  • Local or regional government policy makers (Activities a, b and c) 
  • National policy makers (Activities b and c) 
  • Continental or international policy makers (Activities b and c) 
  • The host institution’s senior management team and/or policy makers (Activity d) 
  • The host country’s higher education policy makers (Activity d) 

These are examples only and fellows may include innovative and alternative policy and public engagement activities in their proposals. 

Mentorship programme

POSSIBLE-Africa fellows will be expected to engage as mentees in a structured programme, in which they will receive specific career guidance from a senior scientist in scheduled virtual monthly sessions. Fellows could elect their own mentees or will be matched by SFA Foundation. Mentors will have to have expertise that can address the career development needs identified by the fellow. They will also receive support through the SFA Foundation mentoring programme to ensure monthly mentoring sessions occur as scheduled. Upon completion of their fellowship, former POSSIBLE-Africa fellows will be invited to enroll in the mentoring programme as mentors and participate in mentoring emerging scholars. 

Virtual monthly seminar series

The virtual seminar series will occur monthly for the duration of the fellowship and will be an opportunity for POSSIBLE-Africa fellows to present and discuss their research with each other. The primary aim of this aspect of the fellowship is to create a safe space for the development of presentation skills and confidence. The secondary aims are to stimulate the exchange of ideas and enable fellows to receive peer feedback on their work before presenting it to external audiences and strengthen the fellow network. Fellows will be expected to present their work at different stages and at least twice during their fellowship, and to participate in at least 80% of seminars by listening to, and providing feedback on work presented by other fellows. The virtual monthly seminars will follow a participatory learning approach (i.e., there will be no expert facilitator, learning from peers) and will be coordinated by SFA Foundation. Mentors and supervisors will be invited to attend.  

Scientific outputs

POSSIBLE-Africa fellows will be expected to produce and submit to a reputable publisher (journal or book) a minimum of two lead-authored, short form (e.g., book chapter or journal article) scientific outputs. Alternatively, fellows may decide to produce a monograph. Fellows will be encouraged to publish their outputs in open access formats and to budget for these costs in their application. One of the scientific outputs must be the fellow’s contribution to an edited collection of articles (special issue journal article) brought together under the theme of, “The value of social sciences and humanities for informing sustainable development in Africa”. Fellows will receive guidance to produce this output through the virtual monthly seminars and short course residency. 

Curriculum development

To ensure the fellowship contributes to institutional strengthening, curriculum development activities that utilize the skills, knowledge and/or findings generated through the fellowship will be a requirement. Fellows will be required to work in conjunction with their supervisors to develop and/or modify one accredited module or course and develop and deliver one guest lecture (or an equivalent contribution). 

Eligibility (Applicant, Host Institution and Academic Supervisor)

Fellow eligibility 

African Scholars who have completed their PhD in any SS&H discipline in the last 2-8 years prior to the application date (graduated between January 2014 and January 2020) are eligible to submit a proposal for funding through the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship programme. Applicants must be citizens of any African country. Applicants must have an affiliation (academic or non-academic) with an African Institute of higher learning or research Centre in any African Country. Females are encouraged to apply, as are scholars from marginalized and disadvantaged groups.  

Applications are more likely to be successful if they can demonstrate:

  • long term institutional commitment (i.e., commitment to retain them after the fellowship) and 
  • that they will contribute an existing body of data to the public domain (e.g., empirical data built up through numerous related consultancies, which are suitable for theoretical analysis with a view to producing scientific outputs during the fellowship) 

Fellowships are typically expected to support scholars who commit to full time research with a minimal (maximum six hours per month) teaching load. Part-time fellowships will also be considered if the programme of research can feasibly be completed within 24 months with a part-time commitment, and the need for and benefit of the part time commitment is justified. Justifications for part time commitment may include enabling women scholars to balance family and work commitments. Applicants must be able to complete the requirements of the fellowship in English.  

The application is going to open to English speaking African scholars in SS&H who:   

  • have an affiliation with an African higher education institution or a research center allowing for a mix of experiences and networks to be represented. However, the multi-step selection process will pay special attention to the fellow’s prospects for eventually contributing to the formation of future researchers (through teaching and supervision) a core objective of the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship. Such a process ensures that researchers in non-teaching institutes are not excluded while ensuring a wide range of experiences and representation of SS&H scholars. In addition, it allows funding to trickle down to African universities who benefit so immensely from it through master’s fellowships, mentorship, training etc.  
  • Similarly, to ensure broad range of inclusion and representation for the purposes of this fellowship applicant affiliation can be non-academic or academic track. With nonacademic referring to those who are not necessarily salaried by the institution, visiting scholars etc. Furthermore, this provides an opportunity for a larger pool of applicants recognizing that SS&H scholars are especially facing intense competition for extremely scare opportunities in academia. However, to ensure that the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship does not serve to reinforce the itinerant researcher phenomenon and/or feed organizations that welcome early-career researchers only if they bring salary and research money with them, support letters will clearly need to demonstrate the career path of the applicant post-fellowship. 
  • Proposal can cover the breath of SS&H to include both core humanities disciplines, quantitative and qualitative SS&H. Covering the SS&H in its entirety will make the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship the first of its kind in Africa. Importantly, such a training will have a huge strategic impact on the continent to build a pool of multi-disciplinary researchers that can be called on to answer the continent's problems in a holistic manner. This is a core long term objective of the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship. 

Host institution eligibility 

The fellowship must be hosted by an African higher education institution (HEI) or academic research centre. Fellowships must be hosted by a HEI or research centre that has a strong track record of producing and managing research and a conducive research system (e.g., administrative support, good financial governance system and regular intellectual events). In hosting a POSSIBLE-Africa Fellow, institutions must commit to: 

  • Provide the required office space, library and other facilities the fellow requires to meet the aims of their research programme. 
  • Limit the teaching responsibilities of the fellow (including lecturing, tutorials, supervision and examining of students and other student contact time) to a maximum of 6 hours per week. The Research Fellow should have a minimal administrative workload. 
  • Ensure that the fellow receives the same level of support as other permanent members of the department including eligibility to supervise postgraduate students and invites to departmental meetings attended by other faculty staff. 
  • Provide the fellow with a supervisor who is an experienced and research-active faculty member with relevant disciplinary expertise and can commit to guiding the fellow throughout the fellowship.   
  • Ensure that the fellow has timely access to the funding provided by the POSSIBLE-Africa fellowship as required and not unduly delay access to funding.  
  • Have appropriate equity, diversity, and inclusion policies in place 
  • Demonstrate an acceptable level of financial grants management capacity. 

Applicants must include an institutional letter of support from an appropriate representative of their proposed institution (e.g., the Research Director, Vice Chancellor/Provost/Chief Executive Officer or equivalent), demonstrating the institution’s commitment and ability to meet these requirements.   


Supervisor eligibility 

The fellow’s supervisor or host academic must be an established researcher who is recognized globally as an expert in their field. This level of expertise would typically be demonstrated by: 

  • a strong publication track record in the fellow’s discipline.  
  • an active research portfolio.  
  • links to a SS&H and/or interdisciplinary research group to which they actively contribute and within which the fellow’s research project can be situated 
  • recognition in the form of awards and speaking invitations (e.g., invited keynote presentations).  

The supervising academic’s field of study and current research must be well matched to the fellow’s proposed research. Applicants must include a brief curriculum vitae and a letter of support for their proposed supervisor in their application.  


Eligibility (Research Topic)

SS&H scientists proposing to conduct basic (pure) or applied research in any SS&H discipline are eligible to apply for a POSSIBLE-Africa scholarship, if their research will produce knowledge to inform the theme of improving lives by creating evidence to inform the range of problems facing the continent. Applicants will be asked in their application form to provide a statement outlining how their research is aligned with or relevant to priorities of: 

  • a specific African community (geographic or interest-based) 
  • their host institution’s research strategy; and/or 
  • local, national, continental and/or international priorities 

Applicants will be required to develop proposals that address the theme of improving lives by creating evidence to inform the range of problems facing the continent in addition to other relevant research outputs. Mixed method proposals will be encouraged. 


Download Budget Template Here

Budget conditions 

Applicants must consult with the appropriate financial administrators at their host organisations before completing the financial sections of their application. Applicants can request up to US $65,000 on the following costs:  

Personnel Costs  

The budget will include personnel who directly support the programme, the level of effort (FTE) will be indicated as a percentage of actual salaries paid and applicable institutional benefits for the positions included in the budget request. 

Travel Costs  

Travel shall include a breakdown for accommodation, air travel, ground transfers, meals during travel, Visas and other travel related expenses. The air travel shall be strictly budgeted for at economy class, regardless of institutional guidelines/exceptions.  

Capital Costs/Equipment  

Equipment refers to items that have a life longer than one year. This line includes the cost of purchasing equipment including laptops and or software and related costs such as installation that is needed to implement the project. These items shall be charged at cost. NB: Depreciation costs are not allowable.  

Research costs 

Full stipend, fees and research costs should be requested for all students and fellows to fully support their studies/research.  

Materials and Consumables  

These are costs for consumable items such as animals, lab supplies, clinical supplies, glassware, chemicals, reagents, etc. used directly while conducting the scope of work for the award. 

Institutional overheads  

These should not exceed 15% of the full award amount. These costs cover all direct and indirect administrative costs for managing the grants within the host institutions.  

Direct programme support costs include but are not limited to; monitoring and evaluation costs, office supplies, stationeries, direct utility bills, direct rental spaces, grant required audits etc  

Indirect programme support costs consist of costs incurred centrally for the benefit of common or joint objectives for the Institution that ultimately benefit all programmes. They are not directly related to any single project or activity but are a necessary part of the costs of undertaking the project or activity. They include cost categories such as:  

Central Support Functions (CSF) costs – these are costs of functions or departments that provide services across the Institution they include, finance, legal, human resources, IT and software, office administration, communications etc   Estate and Premises – these are costs of buildings and utilities for operating the Institutions physical locations. They include rent, on, repairs, insurance, security etc   Office Consumables – these are costs of items used up in the office operations. They include printing, kitchen supplies etc   Governance – these are costs of providing oversight. They include Board costs, Institutional audit etc  Strategy & Fundraising – these are costs that help achieve strategic objectives and resource mobilization. They include strategy, institutional branding etc 


How to Apply

Applications should be submitted via the SFA Foundation’s grant management system Agaseke accessed here:  

Application Deadline

January 13, 2023 1700hrs EAT 

Application Resources

Q&A Webinar

Register for the second Q&A here

Webinar 2 will take place on Wednesday December 14 2022 from 1500HRS East African Time

Watch Webinar 1 recording here


Enquiries can be emailed to [email protected] with responses to enquiries shared on Monday – Friday from 0800 hrs – 1700 hrs EAT.