Congratulations to AfREC Postgraduate Fellows!!

AfREC congratulates our following Postgraduate Fellows for success in their PhD endeavours! We wish them all the best for their future careers.

Dr Muhammad Dan Suleiman (UWA School of Social Sciences)

Dr Muhammad Dan Suleiman graduated from UWA with his PhD in Political Science & International Relations on 10 December 2019. Muhammad has served as the AfREC Postgraduate Coordinator and continues to serve as Editor of AfREC’s AfricaNarratives as well as Coordinator of the African Students in WA (AISWA) University Working Group. Muhammad has also coordinated and taught the UWA units POLS3334 The International Politics of Africa and POLS5671 Peace and Security in Africa, and is the Research Assistant on the new AfREC project ‘The transnational political economy of African migration to Australia’.

Dr Dan Suleiman’s PhD thesis is entitled “(Re)Framing ‘the Jihad’ in Western Africa: An Epistemic Disobedience”. The thesis develops and deploys novel theoretical and analytical frameworks to argue that jihadist movements in Western Africa are not simply caused by the presence of socioeconomic conditions or ethnoreligious factors, as often claimed, but more fundamentally by the persistence of these within the state in Africa. The persistence, not simply the presence, of adverse socioeconomic conditions allows the politicisation and historicisation of ethnoreligious and geographical identities as vehicles in search of a political alternative. The thesis re-synthesises the causal variables of jihadism and their levels of operation to illustrate how particular governance structures facilitate the evolution of jihadist rebellion.

Dr Tonny Kinene (UWA School of Molecular Sciences)

Dr Tonny Kinene graduated from UWA with his PhD in Bioinformatics from the UWA School of Molecular Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology on 13 December 2019.

Dr Kinene’s PhD thesis is entitled “African cassava whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, systematics and patterns of molecular evolution”. African cassava whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) is a small sap-sucking insect causing extensive damage to cassava. B.tabaci is responsible for the Cassava Mosaic Disease and Cassava Brown Streak Disease pandemic that has constrained cassava production in East Africa. We investigated the role the HSP90 gene plays in B. tabaci's ability to adapt to varying climate conditions and its relation to the superabundance phenomenon of whiteflies. We inferred phylogenetic relationships of the B. tabaci species using common genes: RNA polymerase II and Shaker cognate gene w. Finally, we estimated the B. tabaci species tree from 3000 nuclear genes generated from transcriptomic data.

Mr Ahmed Elagali (ICRAR, UWA)

Ahmed is a PhD candidate in the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at UWA and submitted his PhD thesis for examination on 21 November 2019. Ahmed’s PhD thesis is entitled "Studies of Interacting Galaxies and the Environmental Effects on their Evolution". All the best with the examination process, Ahmed!

A summary of Ahmed’s thesis is as follows: Most of the galaxies in the local Universe reside in groups, yet little is known about the physical processes that occur in groups environments and derive galaxy evolution. Part of the problem has been the limited observational knowledge of the distribution of baryons in groups. My work so far has focused on exactly this. I use observations from the state-of-the-art Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (askap) in combination with optical surveys to measure the baryon content of galaxies, as well as the morphology of their gas, which contains important information about the interactions with other galaxies and the environment. On the other hand, with the aim of interpreting observations and disentangling the physical processes at play, I have also analysed large scale, state-of-the-art hydrodynamical simulations. During my PhD studies, I published several papers that explore the environmental processes in groups. For instance, Elagali et al. (2018b) study the formation, evolution and the physical properties of the interstellar medium (ISM) of collisional ring galaxies in the eagle simulations. I provide physical interpretations for some of the long-debated observational puzzles of these galaxies. Observations of ring galaxies reveal an excess amount of atomic hydrogen (HI) in them (Elagali et al 2018a), yet they are deficient in molecular hydrogen. I resolve this debate by showing that the ISM in ring galaxies is characterised by lower global gas phase-pressure and phase-metallicity in comparison with their counterpart disk galaxies that have the same stellar and HI masses. Besides collisions, I explore the effects of less violent interactions on group galaxies. Elagali et al (2019a) present new askap HI observations of the grand-design spiral NGC 1566, and discuss the different environmental processes at play that lead to the asymmetric HI morphology and warped disk of NGC 1566. I conclude that ram pressure interactions with the intergalactic medium (IGM) is the reason for the asymmetries seen in NGC 1566. In addition, Elagali et al. (2019b, in prep.) will present askap HI observations of the Dorado loose group. I detect 24 HI sources in this field, seven of which are new HI sources. I estimate the expected HI content of these sources and find it consistent with the expectations from their angular momentum content except for five galaxies which exhibit HI deficiencies.

Mr Basil Amuzu-Sefordzi (UWA School of Agriculture and Environment)

Basil is a PhD candidate in the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment (SAgE) and submitted his PhD thesis for examination on 13 December 2019. His PhD thesis is entitled “Implementing Renewable Energy Projects in Ghana: Perspectives From an Innovation Studies Approach”. We also wish Basil all the best with his examination process!

“My PhD journey began in June 2014 when I first contacted by supervisor, Dr Kirsten Martinus. Among the numerous universities I sent my applications to, I had a strong connection with UWA because of the university’s motto and slogan: Seek Wisdom, Pursue Impossible. Fortunately, I was awarded the Research Training Program scholarship after a second attempt and enrolled on 14 March 2016.

Studying at the PhD level at UWA is absolutely rewarding. Personally, I have rediscovered myself and once again found fulfilment in going beyond my limits and being creative in my thoughts. Without a doubt this was possible due to the high standards set by my supervisors. There were times that, as a young researcher, I could not catch up to the high analytical prowess of my veteran supervisors. Nonetheless, I was clear-sighted with a focus on the main goal, reflected on the progress made, and took a break. Yes! Taking a break to play some basketball always made a great difference in the quality of my work. I must admit that the care and professionalism of my supervisors and warmth of fellow PhD students provided a great support system that always reassured me of my ability to successfully submit my thesis. As I wait for examiners’ reports, I have a great sense of fulfilment that I have achieved my goal of studying at a world class university and can only hope for great things ahead.”

A summary of Basil’s PhD thesis is as follows: Renewable energy technologies (RTech) disseminated by donor agencies in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have a history of break down after project implementation. The limited success of renewable energy projects (REP) in SSA has partly been attributed to the inability of users to afford, operate, and maintain technologies. Despite recent partnering by SSA governments with international organizations, SSA does not appear to be able to achieve its objective of universal access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy by 2030. Currently, little is known about user participation in REP in SSA and the dynamics between international funding organizations and implementing bodies in beneficiary countries.

Using a socio-technical framework that draws on the innovation and community energy literature, my thesis examines the implications of REP funded and implemented by international donor or development organizations on national renewable energy development. Three solar and two biogas projects were selected as case studies and data was collected through surveys, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and mental maps in four regions of Ghana. The findings from my thesis are provided in three papers (representing Chapters Three to Five) which have been either published, submitted with revisions, or near submission to top-level journals. Using the innovation attributes identified by Rogers’ Innovation Diffusion Theory (IDT), Chapter Three reviews literature on the adoption of decentralized RTech in SSA and shows how short-term lifestyle benefits tend to have greater influence on adoption decision making than long-term ones. Chapter Four draws on both community energy and IDT bodies of literature to examine user participation in the five case studies of this study. And, Chapter Five conceptualizes these case studies as experiments, investigating the implications of cross-national intermediation on renewable energy development.

Drawing on the innovation and community energy literature to inform a socio-technical framework is benign in the SSA context and provides valuable insights into understanding the deployment of RTech. Firstly, the literature review revealed that more than half of researches investigating RTech adoption examined only one innovation attribute. The review showed that studies with such limitations do little to foster holistic approaches to addressing the barriers of RTech adoption in SSA, especially at the household level. Secondly, contrary to the extant literature, the combination of community energy and IDT afforded the examination of user participation at different project stages without losing sight of how it translates to adoption at the user level. This approach revealed that the effects of user participation on RTech adoption is limited and RTech type tends to play a greater role in ensuring a sustained adoption. Finally, by conceptualizing REP as experiments and examining the cross-national intermediation activities that take place, my thesis brings attention to how demand translates to application. It sheds light on intermediation activities of actors that are not typically labelled as intermediaries, nonetheless, translate demand to application, a critical part of meeting objectives of REP in the Global South.

The factors influencing RTech adoption within a community vary significantly so policies that tend to implement blanket solutions, instead of nuanced ones, do little to optimize RTech adoption in SSA. In addition, the sustainable adoption of RTech requires efforts by policy makers and practitioners to better engage adopters given their critical role in energy generation and system operations in communities. Policies that address this issue will ensure that user participation does not only entail the selection of RTech, but that users are actively involved in designing systems that are easy to understand and operate. Although low levels of education may continue to be a challenge with RTech adoption in rural communities, REP are better served with technologies (e.g. mini grids with smart meters) that withstand inappropriate energy-use behaviours and encourage sustainable energy consumption practices. Furthermore, the research highlights the absence of a diverse actor network that should identify skilled personnel from different sectors to build a strong constituency around RTech. Such a network will ensure that project sustainability is not threatened when Global North intermediaries depart after project implementation. Policies aimed at building networks of RTech companies, banks, and government to collaborate in RTech development is critical for the long-term survival of such projects. Such networks would strengthen community capacity, ultimately lessening the long-term reliance on external consultants and advisors.

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