ZIAF was founded in 2003 as a research centre at Goethe University Frankfurt in order to link the various different Africa-oriented activities in one single network of competence. Today, ZIAF has over 80 members from seven different faculties of Goethe University Frankfurt, plus associated members from the Senckenberg Research Institute, the Institute for Social-Ecological Research, and the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt. The scope of disciplines active at ZIAF is unmatched in Germany and comprises African Linguistics, Archaeobotany, Archaeology, Botany, Ecology, Economic Science, English Studies, Ethnology, Geophysics, Human Geography, Palaeoanthropology, Physical Geography, Political Science, Romance Literature and Language Studies, and Zoology.
Aims and Structure of ZIAF
ZIAF as a central networking platform aims to:
- Promote interdisciplinarity in order to meet the demands of highly complex research questions
- Initiate new third-party funded projects in innovative research areas
- Promote and maintain exchange with national and international research institutions
- Support young interdisciplinary North-South researchers
- Promote the cooperation with African partners
- Create networks for national and international institutions from various different fields such as research, economics, cooperative development work, and culture
- Be a contact point for research requests from beyond the university such as the private sector, development cooperation and other organisations
- Pursue public relations for a modern image of African realities
The ZIAF Office organises and coordinates these complex tasks. The Board of Directors discusses and decides on the strategic direction and allocation of funds. The ZIAF Advisory Board, consisting of honorary members with a background in academia, economics, and politics, supports the Board of Directors.
Research Key Areas and Regions
ZIAF organises several interdisciplinary Research Clusters with a wide-ranging spectrum, regarding both content and temporal perspective:
- In the area of biology and geography, questions of biodiversity, ecosystem services of savannahs under the influence of changes in land usage and climate, or sustainable use of resources in a changing environment.
- In the area of archaeology and archaeobotany, study of the NOK-Culture in 100 B.C.-100 A.D. Nigeria and reconstruction of environment and settlement structures.
- In the area of the humanities and social sciences, research of interactions between Africa and Asia as part of the new interdisciplinary and transregional collaborative research project “Africa’s Asian Options” (AFRASO).
- Many other projects from various disciplines contribute to the wide-ranging spectrum of research at ZIAF.
Countries with a long-term focus of ZIAF projects are Benin, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. Since 2003, ZIAF has also supported the “Cultural & Museum Centre Karonga” in Malawi, established by Prof. Friedemann Schrenk, as well as the Research Institute “Point Sud” in Mali, managed by Prof. Mamadou Diawara. Further countries with ZIAF activities are Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Cameroon, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Central African Republic.
Promotion of Young Researchers
There are numerous seminars and events relating to African topics at Goethe University. Through transdisciplinary workshops and events for young researchers ZIAF promotes networking beyond the individual research areas. Field schools with young researchers from African countries and Germany, such as the Fellowship programme of the Volkswagen Foundation in the humanities and social sciences for excellent young African postdocs are amongst the most important ZIAF events.
ZIAF public relations focus on initiating and organising workshops, conferences, and lectures on a diverse range of innovative topics. Further, ZIAF organises exhibitions dedicated to various topics with relation to Africa. The annual ZIAF Lecture brings important representatives from various fields to Goethe University to address general questions of African studies. The ZIAF Lecture is a public event open for both specialists and the general public.