Annual update from AESA’s Director
This is the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa’s (AESA’s) first annual update to report progress to our stakeholders and partners. These communications are intended to stimulate discussion and action across the continent to promote the growth of science, technology and innovation (STI), and to set the scientific agenda for Africa in 2017 and beyond.
Since AESA was launched in September 2015, it has been laser-focused on improving science on the continent. The AESA platform, in partnership with African and global institutions, is positioned to harness science to achieve Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs, in turn, fuel Africa’s knowledge-based economies, the foundation of economic development on the continent.
We are deeply committed to the dramatic growth of our population of world-class researchers by instilling a culture that promotes scientific leadership and excellence, improves our research infrastructure, promotes trans-disciplinary science within and among institutions, fosters development of new tools and technologies, and increases training opportunities for young scientists.
Over the past year, we have achieved some significant milestones toward our goal of becoming a major funding platform and setting the science agenda for Africa:
- We have established new and expanded existing programmes to support the brightest scientists in Africa, working in productive environments, and fostering scientific excellence, leadership and innovation that address health and developmental challenges.
- At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, we and our partners announced the creation of the Coalition for Research and Innovation (CARI), an alliance of African science leaders, international funders, private corporations and philanthropists who have joined forces to catalyse investment in research and innovation. CARI partners will coalesce to better coordinate spending and support regional science initiatives like AESA and Planet Earth Institute.
- We continue to invest, with our partners, US$150 million in research and innovation on the continent.
- In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we launched Grand Challenges Africa (GCA) Innovation Seed Grants. Grants will be awarded to projects with solutions and strategies to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths in Africa, as well as those that have proposed creative communication strategies to inspire African governments to fund research and development.
- The Good Financial Grant Practice (GFGP) programme facilitates transparency, accountability and good stewardship of grants, ensuring that every dollar meant to support science in Africa is responsibly spent.
- Early-career climate scientists receive training through the Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) fellowship programme, which provides research and career development for the next generation of climate science leaders.
- In partnership with the NEPAD Agency, we are developing a 15-year Africa Health Research Strategy to define the continental priorities in health research. We are also assessing Africa’s STI landscape, the results of which will be compiled into a report detailing opportunities and challenges for growth.
- AESA is expanding programmes into new science frontiers, including precision medicine and stem cell research to address infectious and non-communicable diseases.
- We are developing strategies to address Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and encouraging trans- and interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving at the nexus of health, food, water, sanitation and climate sciences in Africa.