African Academy of Sciences and partners launch researcher mobility funds

Collaboration among African and Indian scientists to be facilitated

Nairobi, Kenya, 14 March 2018

The African Academy of Sciences and partners are today announcing two mobility funds, the Science and Language Mobility Scheme Africa and the Africa India Mobility Fund (AIMF), aimed at increasing scientific collaboration among African and Indian researchers.

The funding totals an investment of close to US$500,000, providing travel grants for short term visits to about 100 researchers from African and Indian universities and research institutes. At the AAS, the schemes will be implemented through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA).

The grants are both supported by Wellcome with the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance having provided additional funding for AIMF.

“We are pleased to be launching these two schemes, which provide an opportunity for researchers to build strategic partnerships to harness science to transform lives of Africans and Indians. Shared challenges between Africa and India, including a high disease burden for both communicable and non-communicable diseases, require a multi- and interdisciplinary research approach to problem solving and knowledge creation,” said AESA Director Prof Tom Kariuki.

The opportunities will offer:

  • Travel grants for Francophone and Anglophone African researchers through the Science and Language Mobility Scheme Africa. The programme, which will run for five years, seeks to increase intra-Africa research collaboration between English and French-speaking African scientists while breaking language and cultural barriers, with ambition to expand to Lusophone countries in subsequent years. It is a collaboration between the AAS, Wellcome and Institut Pasteur and will fund short term visits of up to six months. It will be a closed call accepting applications every year from grantees funded through the AAS and the NEPAD Agency’s AESA platform, such as the Human Hereditary and Health in Africa (H3 Africa) and the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS) Africa. It is in addition opened to any scientists affiliated to one of the 10 institutions member of the Institut Pasteur International Network in Africa.
  • Travel grants which seek to establish links between African and Indian researchers through the Africa India Mobility Fund that cultivate a culture of collaboration will serve as a vehicle to improve research capacity and build leadership in biomedical and clinical research for Africa and India. This fund is a partnership between the AAS and the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, accepting applications from scientists from Africa and India who wish to conduct visits of up to three months in either direction. Funding will support collaboration in research in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, dengue, malaria, vector-borne diseases, parasitic infections, emerging infections, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, health systems research, antimicrobial resistance, microbiome, drug development and general biomedical sciences.

“If more African researchers are working together, we will efficiently pool resources to allow us to train more scientists, learn from each other and better address the health and development challenges facing the continent,” said AAS Community and Public Engagement Manager Ms Lillian Mutengu who will also manage the Science and Language Mobility Scheme Africa.

Africans tend to collaborate more with counterparts in the USA or Europe than with researchers on the continent as researchers from Anglo and Francophone countries are limited by language culture and political barriers to effectively work together. A 2010 report by Thomson Reuters found that of the continent’s six stronger research nations – Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia — not one had an African country among its top five collaborating countries. The result is missed opportunities for sharing knowledge as with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where the lack of intra-Africa collaboration meant researchers in this region could not benefit from knowledge and capacities available in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had previously experienced outbreaks of the disease.

“Members of the Institut Pasteur International Network are major players of biomedical research and public health in the Francophone countries of Africa. Building this initiative will hopefully transcend cultural barriers to the benefit of science and encourage the emergence of new scientific talents” explains Dr Marc Jouan, International Vice-President-Institut Pasteur International Network.

Dr Simon Kay, Wellcome’s Head of International Operations and Partnerships, said: “By offering opportunities to young researchers keen to improve their English or French language skills we hope to break down some of the barriers that inhibit greater mobility and collaboration between Africa and India. We hope that this will also encourage other funders to consider how to increase mobility.”

Dr Evelyn Namubiru-Mwaura, the AAS Strategy and Policy Manager, who will also manage the Africa India Mobility Fund said: “The relationship between India and Africa is mutually beneficial. India has the technological advances, including the production of generic drugs and being one of the world’s leading filers of patents, hence providing learning opportunities for African scientists. While Africa provides a conducive environment for research with its high disease burden, genetic diversity, fairly well developed capacities for clinical trials. With the AIMF, we hope to exploit this relationship and contribute to efforts to building a highly skilled science technology and innovative workforce and thereby advance knowledge economies and ensure more people live healthy, productive lives.”

The AIMF comes on the heels of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit held in 2015 and where Heads of State adopted the Delhi Declaration renewing their commitment to work with each other, and outlining the priority areas and ways in which Africa and India can work together to improve the lives of their people. It is also one of many efforts to exploit the synergistic relationship between Africa and India outlined in the India Africa Health Sciences Summit held in 2016.

“Africa and India share many problems of health and the asset of a young population. India Alliance is pleased to join hands with AESA and AAS in launching this Africa-India Mobility Fund. We hope that the coming together of researchers from these geographies would lead to sustainable solutions for our common problems”. Dr Shahid Jameel, CEO, Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance.

Dr Kay said “At Wellcome we are passionate about supporting researchers in Africa and India to become leaders in biomedical and health research, inspiring and training the next generation and helping more people lead healthier lives.  One of the ways individuals grow as leaders is through mobility, collaboration and broadening of experience. 

Applications for the Science and Language Mobility Scheme Africa and the Africa India Mobility Fund open on 3 April 2018. Find applications details here

 

Resources

Why it’s time African researchers stopped working in silos

https://theconversation.com/why-its-time-african-researchers-stopped-working-in-silos-59539

 

Health research: Africa–India health-science partnerships

https://www.nature.com/articles/537488d?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20160922&spMailingID=52357585&spUserID=MTY1NTE3Nzk5NjExS0&spJobID=1003755044&spReportId=MTAwMzc1NTA0NAS2

 

Outwards to Africa

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/Outwards-to-Africa/article14617261.ece