Strengthening the knowledge base to face the impacts of climate change on water resources in Africa: A social innovation perspective

Uta Wehn*, Bertha Vallejo, Chris Seijger, Mamohloding Tlhagale, Natacha Amorsi, Seyram Kossi Sossou, Bettina Genthe, Jean Marie Kileshye Onema

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    While it is increasingly important to strengthen the existing knowledge base in Africa to adequately respond to the rising risks and impacts of climate change on water resources, a significant research gap remains to identify areas and mechanisms to cope with these societal challenges. The aim of the paper is twofold: i) to provide subject-specific insights by analyzing the current knowledge base in Africa given water-related challenges due to climate change, and ii) to offer methodological insights into how a knowledge base can be studied comprehensively. This study overcomes the limitations of existing studies by combining two different perspectives, namely a thematic focus on six societal challenges and a conceptual focus on five social innovation dimensions. It does so by undertaking an innovative qualitative analysis that combines both top-down and bottom-up perspectives. Top-down, it explores the extent to which five social innovation dimensions are included and addressed in policy agendas and action plans. Bottom-up, it explores the perception of African experts and practitioners in how these knowledge gaps should be addressed. The research identifies a strong bias in the policy arena towards water security versus other water-related societal challenges. Our research suggests that rather than focusing on traditional policy instruments, water-related societal challenges should be addressed by joint attention to all five social innovation dimensions. There is a strong call from practitioners and experts towards strengthening the existing knowledge base by engaging local realities and local stakeholders and for the involvement of business and private sector actors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)292-300
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


    • Knowledge base
    • Social innovation
    • Capacity development
    • Water
    • Societal challenges
    • Africa
    • POLICY

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