Pioneering research and innovation through the Nairobi Alliance

An innovative research partnership with the potential to transform lives and support communities across the world has been launched.

The Nairobi Alliance is a strategic partnership between the Universities of Leicester, Nairobi (Kenya), Malawi, Rwanda and Witwatersrand (South Africa). Developed from the friendship and co-operation of academics across the five universities, the partnership builds on the strengths of each university to address key global challenges. 

Nairobi Alliance partners are committed to working together to design and implement cutting-edge research and innovation - based on the principles of equity, respect and empowerment - to address the most pressing issues faced by communities across the world.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester, said:

“I am delighted that the University of Leicester is one of the founding members of the Nairobi Alliance.

“Our university is committed to creating equal opportunities for all, and through this partnership we can join together to make a real difference to communities around the world.

“I look forward to seeing the Alliance develop and the opportunities it will present to our researchers and students.”

As part of the pioneering work undertaken by the Alliance, Dr Joshua Vande Hey (Leicester) is working with Professor Madara Ogot (Nairobi) to help combat air pollution in Nairobi, Kenya - a city whose average air quality has deteriorated by double since the 1970s. The team is monitoring air pollution to better understand its effect on human health, and assessing how effective methods to limit exposure are. 

Professor Sarah Gabbott and Dr Bernhard Forchtner (Leicester), in collaboration with Professor Sosten Chiotha (Malawi), have provided evidence to the Government of Malawi on the impact of plastic bags on people and the environment, which ultimately led to the complete ban of single-use plastic bags across the country.

Dr Paul Lefley (Leicester) and Dr Stanley Mlatho and colleagues (Malawi) have worked collaboratively to design a ventilator and CPAP machine that can be built from 3D-printed parts and be battery-operated, optimising its usefulness in low-resource contexts where electricity supplies may be interrupted. This research was initiated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to address the shortage of ventilators in Malawi, and in order to improve vital health support for a population of over 18m people.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Professor Iain Gillespie, said:

“This partnership presents many exciting opportunities to develop our research expertise in ways that will have a direct benefit on communities around the world. As well as sharing our cutting-edge research, we will look to our partners to help us to re-imagine our approach to research and ensure impact that benefits all.”

  • This project was funded by the University of Leicester’s GCRF QR pump-priming fund.