Wellcome Trust & Alliance for Accelerating Excellence Science in Africa (AESA) media release

Immediate release, 20 April 2016

African research teams in Ivory Coast, Kenya, Senegal and Uganda have been awarded significant support to conduct world class health research and train the future generation of the continent’s scientists.

The Wellcome Trust has committed a further £21 million to the DELTAS Africa initiative, which aims to improve health in Africa through research driven by the most urgent regional challenges.

The four new research programmes will address a range of health needs, from emerging infectious diseases to neonatal health, population health and elimination of malaria.

All four are committed to training the next generation of researchers through programmes that support women in science, create opportunities for masters, doctoral and post-doctoral candidates and provide mentorship.  

A team specialising in generating evidence about what strategies are effective for strengthening research in lower and middle income countries will work alongside the DELTAS Africa initiative programmes. The Learning Research Programme will investigate how best to train and develop world-class researchers, foster their careers and collaborations and promote research uptake into policy.

Including today’s announcement, DELTAS Africa has funded 11 African research teams, a total investment of £60 million (approximately $100 million US dollars), over an initial five-year period.

Seven awards were announced in September 2015 when the five-year scheme, which is a partnership between the Wellcome Trust, the African Academy of Sciences’ Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AAS-AESA) and the Department for International Development (DFID), UK was launched.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust said: “Strengthening health research across sub-Saharan Africa is a powerful way to improve people’s lives in the continent and around the world. Health crises such as Ebola and now Zika, and long-standing threats such as malaria, TB, HIV and increasingly the non-communicable diseases, will only be solved with a strong research base to inform public health measures and develop new treatments and vaccines.

“Creating more opportunities for professional scientists supports economic growth and provides a clearer pathway for researchers who want to pursue a successful scientific career in Africa.”

Currently, Africa accounts for 15% of the global population and 25% of the global disease burden, but only produces about 2% of the world’s research output. A shortage of skilled personnel - Africa only has 79 scientists and engineers per million inhabitants, compared with 168 for Brazil, 2,457 for Europe and 4,103 for the United States- and limited infrastructure have contributed to the low research outputs.

By supporting the training of scientists within the continent, DELTAS Africa is seeking to stem the ‘brain drain’ of the best African scientists and promote Africa-led development of world class research leaders to solve the continent’s most pressing health needs. The scheme will run for five years, but fits into a longer term strategy with a 20 year time horizon.

The deliberate interventions by the programmes to support women are also designed to change the status quo which has seen fewer women opting for careers in science on the continent.

Professor Oumar Gaye, a malaria researcher and clinician at Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal and a DELTAS Africa awardee, said: “Unfortunately there is still a deficit of women in science, so female candidates will be encouraged to apply for studentships and research fellowships. They will have access to additional professional and career development support and training, maternity leave will be supported and flexibility in managing careers and family breaks will be established.”

DELTAS Africa will be handed over to AESA in the second half of the year as part of its vision to shift the centre of gravity and decision making process to the continent.

Dr Tom Kariuki, AESA Director, said: “This shift represents a new era in defining partnerships between Africa and the rest of the world and in improving the continent’s research and science management capacities.”

He added: “It is a massive vote of confidence in Africa’s improving R&D capabilities as captured in the mantra of an Africa Rising.”

The four new DELTAS Africa awardees are:

  • Professor Bassirou Bonfoh, Director of the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifique (CSRS) in Cote d’Ivoire is awarded £5.25 million for the African Science Partnership for Intervention Research Excellence (Afrique One-ASPIRE). The centre will focus on focus on the ‘One Health’ – the concept that the health of animals, human and the environment is interconnected - as an approach to tackle major challenges in ecosystem health.
  • Professor Alex Ezeh, the Executive Director for African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in Kenya and Professor Sharon Fonn at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa is awarded £5.25 million for the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa+ (CARTA+). The initiative, which has been running since 2007, seeks to train and produce postgraduates to lead world-class multidisciplinary research that makes a positive impact on public and population health.
  • Professor Oumar Gaye from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop is awarded £5.25 million for the Malaria Research Capacity Development in West and Central Africa (MACARD), an initiative to provide PhD, early and senior post-doctoral fellowships in areas of research relevant to malaria elimination with a special focus on supporting women in research.
  • Professor Nelson Sewankambo, Professor of Medicine at Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Uganda is awarded £5.25 million for the Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence in East Africa (THRiVE-2) partnership. The initiative seeks to transform East African universities into world class research hubs for infectious diseases, neglected tropical disease, neonatal and reproductive health and non-communicable diseases.
  • Alongside DELTAS Africa awards, Professor Imelda Bates at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will lead the Learning Research Programme (LRP), supported with an award of £800,000. The aim of the project is to produce research-based learning from the DELTAS Africa initiative about how to train and develop world-class researchers, foster their careers and collaborations, and promote research uptake.

Contact

Clare Ryan, Wellcome Trust, c.ryan@wellcome.ac.uk , +44 (0)207 611 7262

Deborah-Fay Ndlovu, African Academy of Sciences, d.ndlovu@aasciences.ac.ke, +254 (0) 727 660 760

Notes for editors

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

Our £18 billion investment portfolio gives us the independence to support such transformative work as the sequencing and understanding of the human genome, research that established front-line drugs for malaria, and Wellcome Collection, our free venue for the incurably curious that explores medicine, life and art. www.wellcome.ac.uk   

About DFID

The Department for International Development (DFID) is leading the UK Government in fighting poverty through job creation, women and girls empowerment and helping save lives in humanitarian emergencies. DFID’s Research and Evidence Division (RED) objective is to make DFID more systematic in using evidence as a basis for how best to reduce global poverty, and provide high quality relevant evidence to others. It aims to achieve this through commissioning research on key questions in development, robust evaluations of UKaid’s funded programmes, high quality statistics and active engagement with policy makers.  
For more information on research funding offered by the Department for International Development and its programme partners please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-development/about/research

About the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA)

The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) is a platform that aims to impact development challenges in Africa by fostering the long-term sustainable development of science excellence, research leadership and innovation in Africa.  AESA was established by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) with support from three global partners: the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). In January 2015, the African Union heads of state endorsed the establishment of AESA, whose goals are in line with the Science Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024) - the African Union’s blueprint for developing STI and part of the continent’s long-term Agenda 2063 strategy.

AESA’s mission is focused on supporting People, Places, and Programmes, which translated to supporting the best minds in Africa, working in conducive research environments, to implement programmes that produce quality, relevant data, and innovations that have the potential to impact health and developmental challenges on the continent and globally. AESA is an Africa-led, Africa-centred and Africa-specific platform whose fundamental idea is to shift the centre of gravity for building African science to Africa, by developing a highly professional platform which acts as both as a think tank for developing pan African scientific excellence, and as an implementing body working in partnership with major funders. AESA aims to identify challenges that hinder rapid scientific advancement in Africa, run open calls for proposals with transparent review processes, actively manage grants, and evaluate and measure the impact of such investments.