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University of Bayreuth, Press Release No 159/2021 - 09 November 2021

University of Bayreuth is partner of newly founded Humboldt Hub in Africa

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is supporting six new research hubs in Africa to help cope with the current pandemic and develop new strategies for potential future crises. Prof. Dr Eva Spies from the University of Bayreuth will be involved in the Humboldt Hub based at the University of Zimbabwe. 

In total, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation will establish six new research centres in Africa. Each research centre will receive up to € 750,000 in funding - paid over a period of five years. "With these new research hubs in Africa, we are supporting the establishment of sustainable structures to be better prepared for future global pandemics," explains Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State for Foreign Cultural Policy at the Federal Foreign Office.

The hubs have been set up at six locations in Benin, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe to strengthen research capacities in Africa and to network Humboldt alumni there with researchers in Germany.

One of the new hubs is entitled "Fighting pandemics with religion? How female religious actors in Africa (can) contribute to ensuring healthy lives" and began its work in October 2021. The hub, which will run until September 2026, is led by Dr Ezra Chitando, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, and collaborates with two members of the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, Prof. Dr Eunice Kamaara from Moi University in Kenya and Prof. Dr Eva Spies from the University of Bayreuth

Director Ezra Chitando explains that the hub aims both to increase the involvement of social sciences in the field of health care, which has so far been dominated by economics and natural sciences, and to conduct fundamental studies on what role religiously-oriented women play and have played in addressing pandemics/epidemics, and what can be learned from this involvement with regard to issues of gender and religion in health care.

The Research Hub in Zimbabwe aims to develop research concepts, conduct research, and establish long-term collaborative structures. The aim is to promote interdisciplinary basic research in the area of 'female religious activism', especially in the field of health. Within the framework of the research conducted there, proposals are also to be developed on how female religious actors can be more involved in the promotion of sustainable development.

The hub's work is based on the hypothesis that religious women in Africa have skills and experience acquired in previous responses to pandemics/epidemics (such as HIV and Ebola), which they are now using to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interdisciplinary and transnational study of women's re/actions will help develop more effective strategies to tackle future pandemics and advance conceptual work at the intersections of religion, women's health, care work, and sustainable development.

Among the six research centres funded, this is the only one from the field of humanities and social sciences.


Prof. Dr. Eva Spies

Professor for the Study of Religion with focus on Africa

Phone: +49 (0)921/55-4150


Jennifer OpelDeputy Press & PR Manager

Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5357