CEsA is organized into lines of research that integrate the activities of their members, either individually or in collectively work programs. Each line has a responsible investigator who assumes, in conjunction with the Centre's management, the functions of coordinating and managing the activities of the group. The research undertaken includes individual work projects, funded projects (Foundation for Science and Technology, or other sources), national and international cooperation programs and programs in conjunction with the Master in Development and International Cooperation and the PhD Program in Development Studies of ISEG/Ulisbon.

Currently, the research carried out at CESA is built on three separate lines of research and a fourth which is transversal, and relates specifically to the collation of documentation and the creation of data bases, quantitative and qualitative, relevant to development studies.