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 2023 data. 



In the past 5 years, UQ has produced 2454 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 Limited (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

Cave site reveals the oldest human burial in Africa

Africa is often referred to as the cradle of humankind – the birthplace of our species, Homo sapiens. There is evidence of the development of early symbolic behaviours such as pigment use and perforated shell ornaments in Africa, but so far most of what we know about the development of complex social behaviours such as burial and mourning has come from Eurasia. However, the remains of a child buried almost 80,000 years ago under an overhang at Panga ya Saidi cave in Kenya is providing important new details. Working with an international team of researchers including Kenya, and South Africa, we studied the burial. Our results reveal valuable insights into human cultural evolution, including how Middle Stone Age populations interacted with the dead.

How cobras developed flesh-eating venom

UQ scientist Bryan Fry led an international study that revealed how cobras developed their venom. The research team – which included UQ’s Venom Evolution Lab and Medicine, Snakebite Assist (Pretoria), and Pretoria Uni – 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.)

Experts share ‘farm to plate’ knowledge for free

UQ researchers are helping workers in developing countries make the agribusiness sector fairer and better value. Ray Collins and Benjamin Dent have developed a manual on agricultural value chain analysis (VCA) – and they’re giving it away to those who need it most. The Manual has case studies showing the success of farm to plate businesses using VCA, such as one project for women smallholders growing pineapples in Ghana. They found the postharvest loss of fruit that didn’t meet the demanding export specifications could be processed into dried fruit snacks. The project improved the livelihood and confidence of the women involved, turned postharvest waste into an income stream and produced environmental benefits. The direct beneficiaries were 40 women smallholder farmers.

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. Birdie also has a research agreement with the South African National Parks.


Hy-Gain for smallholder farmers' crops

By exploiting quirks in plant reproduction, an international team of researchers funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and headed by Professor Anna Koltunow of UQ are seeking to improve the bottom line for farmers. “Together, the Hy-Gain project team is developing new ways to breed sorghum and cowpea varieties that make it possible to achieve large gains in yields, while increasing resilience to diseases and environmental stress,” Professor Koltunow said. The endgame is to increase yields and hardiness while reducing on-farm costs thereby improving agricultural productivity, profitability, and food security. First in line to benefit are poor smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who rely on exceptionally drought tolerant and hardy crop species to survive. 

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 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.

Student mobility

Sub-Saharan Africa student funding

More than 130 Sub-Saharan African students have studied at UQ via a scholarship since 2017, 76% of whom have been funded by the Australian Government’s Australia Awards Program. In addition, 6 students have been funded by the Botswana High Commission, and 2 have been funded by The Rotary Foundation. The majority of students are postgraduate students.

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:


Health Program Manager at TotalEnergies: broad energy company; 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

Chief Executive Officer of Value Alliance (world's second alliance of low-cost carriers); former Vice President at South African Airways (Bachelor of Economics 2001)