VLIR-UOS IUC Université de Lubumbashi


Challenges and opportunities for a sustainable socio-ecology in the Katangese Copperbelt Area

Programme summary

Between 2003 and 2018, the DRC has experienced an average economic growth of 5%, which was mainly driven by the Katangese copper and cobalt sector, accounting for more than 80% of the country’s export earnings. It is well known, however, that this growth has not trickled down to the majority of the population. Despite being the engine for the country’s growth, poverty and inequality remain high in the Katangese Copperbelt Area (KCA). The population faces many challenges related to food safety and food security, health and environmental pollution, poor governance and physical insecurity. Moreover, the exploitation of mineral resources (in large-scale and small-scale operations) has severe consequences for the sustainable management of natural resources. 
By providing adequate training and building stronger multi-disciplinary research capacities, UNILU, together with the local stakeholders, could make a significant contribution towards improving the situation, but lack of public funding has so far prevented UNILU from fully taking up this role. Through adequate training, the creation of specialized Master programmes and an Environmental Observatory (within which existing specialized research centres will be integrated and others will be created), the enhancement of a critical mass of research leadership via PhD-qualified researchers, service to society and professionalization of the bachelor cycle, the IUC programme will co-design and improve, by 2032, an interdisciplinary socio-ecological framework regarding biodiversity and climate change, environment, urbanization, health, governance, security, entrepreneurship, agro-pastoral sector and communities’ productivity and job training.

The IUC programme focusses on six domains:


Flemish team leader

Local team leader

P1: Biodiversity and climate change

Prof. Pascal Boeckx (UGent)

Prof. Basile Mujinya Bazirake

P2: Environment and health

Prof. Virginie Bito (UHasselt)

Prof. Salvius Bakari Amuri

P3: Governance and security

Prof. Sara Geenen (UAntwerpen)

Prof. Laurent Ngoy Ndjibu

P4: Entrepreneurship

Prof. Nikolay Dentchev (VUB)

Prof. Pascal Sem Mbimbi

P5: Climate smart agriculture for sustainable food systems

Prof. Geert Haesaert (UGent)

Prof. Florence Kampemba Mujinga

P6: Institutional capacity building

Prof. Jean-Michel Rigo (UHasselt)

Prof. Donatien Dibwe Dia Mwembu

More information can be found in the extended concept note (pdf, 1.6 MB).  

Next steps

In March 2021, the IUC partnership entered the "Phase In", the last stage in the preparations  to engage in IUC cooperation with Flemish HEIs. The IUC Phase In is a preparatory stage of a long-term IUC partnership (Phase I) between a local partner university (University of Lubumbashi) and the Flemish HEIs. During this stage the operational set-up of an IUC partnership is prepared as well as the necessary steps in the formulation process of a Phase 1 project proposal for 2022-2026.

On 15/9/2021 the IUC partnership will organise a connect session together with VLIR-UOS to present the IUC proposal to the broader public. More information can be found on the VLIR-UOS website.


Programme management

The Programme Support Unit (PSU) supports the project activities on a daily basis and facilitates the efficient implementation of the project activities in line with VLIR-UOS rules and regulations. The PSU ensures central and transparent project management and strengthens links and exchanges between projects and partners.

For more information about the programme management and the IUC programme in general, you can contact:

Local coordinator:  Prof. César Nkuku Khone (UNILU)
Flemish coordinator: Prof. Virginie Bito (UHasselt)

Local project manager: Yannick Useni (UNILU)
Flemish project manager: Liesbeth Oeyen (UHasselt)