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E-Waste Value Chains, Sustainable Cities, and Livelihoods in Africa

Masterclass for doctoral candidates and advanced master students

Date: 10th and 11th of October 2019

All doctoral students and advanced master students of the University of Cologne can apply for attending the masterclass.

Topic and aim:
Many electronic devices such as smartphones, laptop computers or television sets reach the end of their life span in countries of the Global South, and in African cities in particular. Here they will be dismantled and burned to regain valuable metals for export, or they will be refurbished and resold to (mostly domestic) consumers. The huge e-waste sector in many African cities affects the livelihoods and the health of many workers in this industry, raises questions on urban sustaina­bility, and calls for new and alternative forms of organizing the industry and the respective value chains. E-waste value chains in the Global South are also the central topic of a currently planned research initiative of the Universities of Cologne and Siegen.

Against this background, the masterclass aims to better understand the different value chains of the e-waste sector in African cities with respect to – for instance – power relations within the chains, livelihoods outcomes, alternative development strategies, or sustainable development goals. In particular, the two-day event shall serve to discuss topics for master theses as well as doctoral and postdoctoral projects in preparation of an application for a DFG-funded research group (Forschungsgruppe) on e-waste management and recycling in the Global South.  

We invited three distinguished researchers from Ghana, South Africa and India to work and to discuss with us:

Professor Catherina Schenck is Head of Department and Full Professor in the Department of Social Work at University of the Western Cape. She holds the South African Research Chair in Waste and Society, South Africa's first ever research chair on waste management. Her research interests are threefold and aim at exploring (1) job opportunities in the waste economy and waste value chain that can improve livelihoods through the transition away from landfilling in South Africa; (2) business models to support a secondary resources economy, with a particular focus on SMMEs; and (3) strategies towards behavioral change and thus exploring local appropriate strategies for the South African context towards waste prevention, reuse, and recycling.

Dr Somjita Laha is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Human Development in New Delhi. She recently finished a research project on e-waste in South Africa as a postdoctoral fellow at the Society, Work and Politics Institute (SWOP) at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Her research interests include informalization in global capitalism and environmental justice in the Global South with a particular focus on e-waste management and e-waste processing. Dr Laha was educated in Economics and Development Studies in India, Netherlands and the UK.

Professor Martin Oteng-Ababio is Head of the Department of Geography at University of Ghana. His research interests include urban disaster risk reduction, environmental health and management, informality, urban livelihoods, and housing and infrastructure provision. He is one of the leading researchers on e-waste processing and recycling in Africa. Current third-party funded research activities include projects on climate change resilience and urban mobility, sustainable market actors for responsible trade, and e-waste processing, health and food security at Agbogbloshie in Accra. Martin Oteng-Ababio published more than 80 papers in refereed journals and edited books, a large share of which deal with livelihood impacts of e-waste processing and recycling in West Africa.

Doctoral students and advanced master students (preferably 2nd semester and higher) of the University of Cologne can apply for participating in the masterclass. To apply please send an e-mail to Susanne Weber ( Please provide some basic information such as your current status (doctoral or master student) and your field of study/research. You should also provide a short motivation letter of max. half a page outlining the reasons for why you wish to attend this masterclass. Because of space restrictions the number of participants has to be restricted to a maximum of 15 doctoral and/or master students.

All applications have to reach Susanne Weber before the 1st of October 2019. 

Doctoral students of the Graduate School of Geosciences can obtain GSGS points for their participation, master students of Geography can get their participation certified on their “Laufzettel”. All participants will receive a certificate of attendance.

Institute of Geography, University of Cologne

Boris Braun, Peter Dannenberg, Javier Revilla Diez (on behalf of the Graduate School of Geosciences and the Global South Study Center)

If you have any questions about the masterclass do not hesitate to contact one of the organizers:

Boris Braun (

Peter Dannenberg (

Javier Revilla Diez (