Active and intense cooperation with academic and development partners in the South has been a long tradition at IOB. This cooperation takes place in a variety of forms and countries.

Long-term institutional partners in DR Congo and Nicaragua

As part of its long-term institutional partnership with the Université Catholique du Congo (UCC) in Kinshasa, DR Congo, IOB has continued to coordinate the VLIR-UOS-IUC programme on “Decentralisation and Local Development”, setting up a variety of initiatives designed to provide academic support in cooperation with the universities of Ghent and Leuven. In 2013, the programme provided space to work and publish on policy evaluation of two key Congolese governmental projects: the abolition of school fees and the introduction of the guichet unique (one stop shop) at the customs border. Four PhD students started work on different topics related either to administrative or to de facto decentralisation. A digital platform was set up to connect the UCC to a variety of digital scientific libraries worldwide. The programme did suffer quite dramatically from a temporary standstill in project funding, however, as a consequence of the Flemish federal government’s proposal to cut the budget for federal academic cooperation.

In Nicaragua, long-term institutional cooperation with the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) continued under the flag of the Flemish Interuniversity Council’s Own Initiative project “Generating Knowledge and Strengthening Synergies for Rural Development”. Several joint local and international publications were realised on microfinance, payments for environmental services, trans-local livelihoods and agricultural value chains and a joint book is in preparation. On 15 August 2013, our research partner, the Nitlapán Institute, celebrated its 25th anniversary together with its spin-off, the microfinance organisation Fondo de Desarrollo Local, which turned 20. At the academic session, Johan Bastiaensen gave the keynote lecture “From Microfinance Plus to Territorial Pathways with Microfinance and other Services”. During the celebration, Professors Stefaan Marysse and Johan Bastiaensen both received formal recognition, from the Nitlapán Institute and the Fondo de Desarrollo Local respectively, for their contributions to the organisations’ success.

A joint paper, which develops a human capability perspective on Nitlapán’s territorial approach to rural development, was presented by Nitlapán director, Rene Mendoza, at the Annual Conference of the International Human Capability Association organised at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua (9-12 September 2013). In December 2013, Juan Carlos Polvorosa (lecturer in the Department of Economics, UCA) successfully concluded his IOB PhD in the University of Antwerp’s Faculty of Applied Economics. Gert Van Hecken, an FWO post-doc researcher who started his research project on payments for environmental services in November 2013, will collaborate extensively with the Nitlapán Institute, which has been involved in several pilot PES programs in Nicaragua. One scholar from the junior research programme of USOS (the University of Antwerp’s Foundation for Development Cooperation), studying with UCA-Nitlapán and VLIR-UOS, obtained her Master in Globalisation and Development at IOB and was reintegrated in Nitlapán upon her return. Another of this programme’s scholars also started her Master at IOB in September 2013. Finally, in 2013 we also engaged in the systematic review and planning of our multi-faceted cooperation with the Universidad Centroamericana, which involved self-evaluation processes both at UA (USOS and IOB) and at UCA, as well as a mission from external expert Professor José Juan Romero (Professor Emeritus Universidad de Loyola, Spain). This process corroborated the mutual satisfaction of UA and UCA in the achievements of our long-term institutional cooperation, but also generated new ideas for supporting UCA in its bid to become a research university. A plan for the next phase of our cooperation is expected during 2014.

Participation in institutional university cooperation


Our institutional cooperation with the Université Catholique de Bukavu (UCB) in DR Congo is part of a VLIR-funded IUS programme, coordinated by the KU Leuven. The IUS programme includes an interdisciplinary project on ‘mining governance’, which has been consolidated in 2015 through the formal establishment of the ‘Expertise Center on Mining Governance’ (CEGEMI) at UCB. In 2015 new research was launched on hybrid governance in mining concessions (FWO postdoc Sara Geenen); the articulation between agriculture and mining (PhD Francine Iragi); environmental impact of mining (PhD Bossissi Nkuba); mining cooperatives (IOB master student Jorden de Haan); and the network was extended to include researchers from the Free University of Brussels (VUB), the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) and ISS The Hague. Research on mining sector governance, artisanal miners’ livelihoods, coexistence of artisanal and industrial mining and conflict minerals continued and resulted in the publication of several articles, as well as Sara Geenen’s book ‘African artisanal mining from the inside out’.

CEGEMI is increasingly reaching out to policy makers and civil society, among others through its new website In September 2015, a national conference on ‘Women in the Congolese mining sector’ was funded by the World Bank and organized by CEGEMI in Bukavu. In December 2015, Marijke Verpoorten organized an academic workshop focusing, among others, on mining in the DRC, at IOB.


Germán Calfat is team leader of the VLIR IUC project ‘International Migration and Local Development’, an IOB collaboration with the Universidad de Cuenca. Last year, the main activities of the joint research team included the analysis and further extension of the MIMM (Migration Impact Monitoring Mechanism), with qualitative research complementing the study of the census data collected in Sigsig in the province of Azuay. Furthermore, data collection was also completed for the study of parental migration, which aims to understand mobility and absence in family life and especially its impact on the wellbeing of children left behind. The preliminary results of this study have been presented at various conferences and workshops in Europe and Ecuador. Also central among the project’s activities was the start of new research on the factors influencing the success or failure of returned migrants and their entrepreneurial activities. Finally, 2013 also saw the introduction of a new research line related to the study of discriminatory practices against Colombian refugees in the city of Cuenca.Research cooperation activities have been initiated with the Pontíficia Universidad Católica de Quito (PUCE) and a formal cooperation agreement is now only awaiting the green light from the legal departments.


Since 2011, IOB has been acting as the coordinating institution for the VLIR IUC collaboration with the Université du Burundi (coordinator: Stef Vandeginste). This programme has an annual budget of €450 000 and revolves around five projects: support for education and research in basic sciences; community health; rural development and food security in the provinces of Kayanza and Ngozi; support for expertise in the Faculty of Law in the areas of good governance and the rule of law; and new information and communication technologies. Together with other long-term institutional partnerships in DR Congo, this programme enables IOB to strengthen its networks in the African Great Lakes Region.

IOB - VLIR-UOS research platforms in Uganda

The year 2013 saw the birth of two VLIR-UOS-funded research platforms in Uganda, one on Governance and one on Insecurity. The two platforms aim to bring Ugandan and Flemish researchers together in order to enhance the knowledge base and scientific capacity of the academic communities in Uganda and Flanders and to conduct high-standard, policy-relevant research on governance and public policy issues as well as on food, health and environmental insecurity topics. Four of the Governance platform projects and one of the Insecurity projects have IOB supervisors at the helm. Kristof Titeca and Ugandan supervisor Tenywa Aloysius Malagala (Gulu University) are taking the lead in the ‘Governance and post-conflict reconstruction in Northern Uganda’ TEAM project. Northern Uganda has been ravaged by war for the last two decades, and despite having known peace since the year 2005, conflict has been a defining characteristic of Uganda politics and society.

The reconstruction process is equally important but is being affected by a range of governance problems, which remain poorly understood. This TEAM project will generate better knowledge and also contribute to sustainable peace-building by disseminating the results to the relevant policy actors and communities. Additionally, in a SOUTH initiative, Titeca is working together with Mesharch Katusiimeh (Uganda Christian University) to explore the extent to which a partnership for ‘Urban governance in Kampala’ could lead to a joint research agenda and the setting up of larger collaborative research projects and PhD research in the future.

Meanwhile, Nadia Molenaers and Nathalie Holvoet are joining forces with the Uganda Christian University (supervisor Mesharch Katusiimeh) to learn more about the impact of accountability mechanisms on service delivery and how those mechanisms are affected by local politics. Two PhD students, Robert Tabora and Martin Kizito, will research sub-questions related to the overall topic. Findings will be broadly disseminated among domestic accountability actors. Closely linked to this project, a South Initiative will start in 2014 with Tom De Herdt as the Flemish supervisor (Ugandan supervisor: Pamela Mbabazi, MUST), focusing on effective service delivery and, more specifically, gauging whether decentralisation in Uganda has lived up to its promise of rendering service delivery more efficient. Another South Intitiative that will start in 2014 with Filip Reyntjens as the Flemish supervisor (Ugandan supervisor: Tom Ogwang, MUST) will research the need for finding durable solutions for old refugee case-loads in Nakivale settlement in Mbarara district. Finally, a South Initiative led by Nathalie Holvoet and Viola Nilah Nyakato (MUST) will address intra-household time allocation and the effect it has on food and health security among rural communities.