Education for Sustainable Development in Africa - ESDA initiative

The Education for Sustainable Development in Africa (ESDA) is an initiative with a three-pronged masters programme which is helping to build the next generation of researchers and leaders skilled in sustainable development. The project, supported by Japan and involving eight universities in five African countries, has kicked off after years of planning and development.

ESDA started in 2008 as a project of United Nations University (UNU), to develop a programme for sustainable development and test it jointly with eight African universities. In 2011, the African universities and UNU signed an agreement on implementing, monitoring and evaluating the ESDA programmes. Since 2022, the programme seems to be inactive.


  • establish a common postgraduate programme on sustainable development within African universities
  • improve existing postgraduate offerings in partner universities rather than creating totally new courses
  • strengthen the problem-solving capacities and inter-personal work skills of postgraduate students.
  • creat mechanisms for inter-university sharing of complementary strengths among the partner universities in order to enrich the programmes

Main Activities

The courses are being instituted in a way that will take postgraduate students into the field to address practical issues that relate to sustainable development concerns in communities that they are familiar with and understand.

  • sustainable urban development;
  • sustainable integrated rural development in Africa;
  • mining and mineral resources.


The Japanese government provided seed funding for the project of around US$1 million, and more funding was received from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, and the African Development Bank. The African universities are contributing in kind, especially through the provision of staff time and meeting facilities.


ESDA was a project funded by United Nations University. The project implemented actions to facilitate ESDA faculty and students in academic and research activities – through workshops, writing of book series and conducting research. In many African universities, a major shortcoming of existing programmes was a heavy focus on classroom or desk-level learning, with limited practical exposure to developmental realities in a community or industry setting. The project was designed not only for African students, but also for students from outside Africa who are interested in contributing to sustainable development on the continent. 

More information here

Latest update: 09.11.2023