Call for Papers for 2019 International Conference: Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Defining a Role for Research Universities

25 July, 2019

The main conference will take place over two days, 18 -19 November, followed by several one-day workshops on 20 November 2019, driven by ARUA Centres of Excellence. The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), in partnership with University of Nairobi,  will host an international conference  and workshops  on 18-20 November 2019 under the theme “Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Defining a Role for Research Universities”.  Interested persons are invited to express  their interest in making relevant presentations by sending abstracts of their planned  presentations, following the brief and guidelines below.

Synopsis of Conference

The world is being ushered into a new industrial future, which is set to change in a fundamental way, how  people live  daily.  The  Fourth Industrial  Revolution  will be  fundamentally different  from  earlier industrial revolutions in its sc ope and complexity,  as well as its  scale. The rate, depth and brea dth of the  likely transformations promise to be  disruptive to all industries everywhere, especially for their production systems , management as well as governance.    It is not  clear how its future will look,  but clues about what  will shape  winners  and losers  are emerging. Clearly innovation  is critical,  but so also is  the constant restating of shared  values  that  safeguard  our common  humanity. One thing is certain;  the future will be like nothing  the world  has  seen before. T o make the most of it will require coordinated effort of all stakeholders ,  including  the  public and private sectors, academia and industry ,  as well as civil society.

The Fourth Industrial  Revolution is based on the electronics and information technology that characterized the third revolution   and is distinguished by the merging of technologies, muddling the distinction between the   cyber, physical and biological worlds.  The  Internet of Things  (IoT)  offers the prospect of connecting billions of people, animals and objects each with a device with phenomenal processing power and storage capacity. This will unleash a n unparalleled amountof data, which can be analyzed for unlimited knowledge.  Advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, wireless communication, instrumentation, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing   will have a multiplicative effect on progress made.

The impact of artificial intelligence is already evident  with  drones, self-driving cars and trains,  virtual experts in the fields of medicine, law, investment,  etc. This progress has been made possible by the rapid advances in the field of computation and  the  ability to analyze vast amounts of data very  quickly  in a way that was hitherto unimaginable.  The range of applications  for  computing technology is wide,  covering  predictive algorithms, drug discovery, reconstruction of  archaeological artifacts and many more.  Nanotechnology is now making its way into   the biological sphere, pioneering a symbiosis of human body, microorganisms, food and the built environment.  A new world is being created;virtual reality, where there is  a blurring of lines between the physical world and the virtual world.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to  yield new products and services.Undoubtedly it is expected to raise standards   of living and income levels  globally.It will increase efficiency and productivity at the work place. Transportation and communication costs will drop dramatically,  hence delivering huge dividends to the supply-chain, opening up new markets and driving economic growth.  Work and leisure  will look different.  Those who stand to   benefit the most are those societies  and individuals who  can gain access to and leverage digital technology.

It is feared by many though that this revolution could create greater inequality and disrupt the labour market as machines increasingly take over from humans. This will imply that many jobs will cease to exist in the near future. A result of this is likely to be increase s  in social tensions with some segments having high skill/high paying jobs while  other segments  have low skill/low paying jobs.  A disillusioned workforce with little confidence and fearful of the future could  resultwith serious security implications .  This could further deepen the   ‘ winner takes all’economy.  History shows that with any innovation the beneficiaries are  the innovators,  investors,  stakeholders  and those who provide the intellectual content.  This scenario will be replicated across countries and regions.  Social media has made the world a smaller place, enabling cross cultural interactions and exchange of ideas. While  this is to be welcomed, there is  also  the danger that it could  help fuel social unrest as happened during the Arab spring.  Its impact is expected to be wide ranging, on government, business, people, education, health, agriculture and many more.

Given the transformative nature of the  Fourth Industrial  Revolution, developing nations should be asking important questions about what they bring to the table and niches they can carve for themselves for material and political gain.  African universities should be preparing to  ask questions and to  offer answers to questions that are already being asked in this regard.

The ARUA 2019  conference aims to bring together  international  expertise from academia, government, industry, as well as from civil society to deliberate on the issues and pave the way for  nurturing and supporting  the  Fourth  Industrial Revolution in Africa.  It will focus on how African universities can lead the way in the areas of teaching and research. How should universities prepare the student for the digital future? What research will su pport the production of goods and services  in Africa in the new digital age?  What relevant research will generate answers to questions about how to deal with the fall-out from the new revolution?

Conference structure

The main conference will take place over two days, 18 -19 November, followed by several  one-day workshops  on 20 November 2019, driven by ARUA Centres of Excellence. The two-day international conference is designed to attract up to 250 participants from all over the world, but with about a half of the participants from ARUA member universities.

  • Education
  • Health  Care
  • Agriculture
  • The Built Environment and
  • Transportation
  • Communication and Society
  • Security and Defence Blockchain
  • Production
  • Regulation
  • International  Diplomacy


The conference will take place in Nairobi.


The conference is expected to lead  to at least two edited volumes, one for the natural and physical sciences and another for the social sciences and humanities. It is planned to  publish special editions of known international journals for ARUA Centre of Excellence.  The conference will  additionally  produce a ‘think-piece’ to be shared with African university Vice Chancellors and governments on preparing for the fourth industrial revolution’.

Submission of Abstracts and Papers

Interested persons are invited to submit a one -page abstract of the papers they would like to present as a PDF attachment to before 31st July 2019. Successful applicants will be informed about the decis ion on their abstracts and the method for submission of full papers within 14 days. Full papers  are expected in  by 30th September 2019.


ARUA will provide limited travel support to successful African presenters.