Call for applications for PhD scholarship

In 2022, Volkswagen Foundation issued a call for multi-year research projects focused on wealth. Led by a group of scholars based in Germany, ACC joined a group of researchers interested in the intersections between ICT/digital technologies and wealth studies, with proposed cases in Denver, Calcutta, Tokyo, Nairobi and Hamburg. The project, entitled Smartness as Wealth was successful and will begin in September 2023. ACC will lead the work on Nairobi. The project will explore financial technologies, and the promises related to financial inclusion in the context of urban Africa.

As part of this project on Smartness as Wealth, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the ACC is seeking to recruit a full-time PhD candidate who will undertake rigorous and critical work on fintech and inclusion in the context of Nairobi. The student will be supervised and based at the University of Cape Town, under Dr Liza Cirolia, who is the PI on the project. The student will also form part of a cohort of PhDs and post-doctoral researchers located in the various cities. The PhD candidate should plan to spend time between Cape Town and Nairobi. The PhD topic must align closely with the themes of the project and must be approved by the supervisor. The empirical focus of the PhD project will need to relate to the detailed dynamics of fintech innovation (for example, mobile money, insurance, asset-financing, credit scoring, etc.) and its grounded promises of social and economic mobility in Nairobi. The conceptual focus of the project includes questions of smartness, wealth, inclusion/exclusion, and speculation. Applicants are expected to show a keen interest in the nexus of African cities, technology, and finance.

The successful incumbent will be required to

• Register for full-time study in the relevant department/faculty.
• Comply with the University’s approved policies, procedures and practises for the postgraduate sector.
• Engage actively in the overall project, including attending project meetings, workshops and events.
• Undertake research tasks related to the overall project.

Successful candidates may not hold scholarships and salaried/full-time employment concurrently.

Value and tenure
The value of this award is R315,000 per year. The award is renewable for three years, with continued renewal contingent on annual progress. Additional funding will be available for field work and travel costs.

Academic criteria
A Master’s degree in Geography, Urban Studies, Anthropology, Sociology or other related discipline (if you have a degree in a more technical discipline, please use the application to explain your experience with social/critical scholarship and methods);
– Excellent organisational, communication and interpersonal skills;
– Ability to organise and operationalise field work and travel planning;
– Proficiency in Microsoft Office software suite;
– Good qualitative and quantitative research skills (strong quant skills are not required, however, willingness to engage with technical detail is necessary);
– Evidence of academic writing ability (for example, coauthored papers);
– Demonstrated experience undertaking research on African cities (East African experience is an advantage, but not required);
– Interest technology and finance (some experience is useful, but not required);

Application requirements
All applications should include:

  • A letter of application which includes:
    1. Motivation letter for your application
    2. An overview of how your profile responds to the minimum requirements of the advert, indicating what CV experiences are relevant to the criteria;
    3. What you will additionally bring to the project teams (in terms of experience, approach etc.)
    4. A quick overview of how you would approach the study of fintech in Nairobi, including an indication of the questions you think are most relevant and interestin
  • A comprehensive CV
  • Copies of academic transcripts
  • Either names (and contact details) OR letters of reference from at least two academics who have taught, supervised or worked alongside the applicant should be a requirement.

Selection process
The scholarship shall be awarded by a committee consisting of the Director of the African Centre for Cities and the Principal Investigator of the project.
The scholarships shall be awarded on the basis of academic ability for full-time study at the University of Cape Town School of Architecture.

Closing date for applications: 1 September 2023

Contact details for submission of applications and for enquiries
Applicants can be submitted to Faranaaz Bennett:
For more information on this position, please contact Dr Liza Cirolia:

UCT’s Indemnities
The University of Cape Town reserves the right to disqualify ineligible, incomplete and/or inappropriate applications. The University of Cape Town reserves the right to change the conditions of award or to make no awards at all.