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African researchers are calling for supportive policies, increased funding and a collaborative approach to research and development to bridge the gap between scientific research and policy implementation. Fast playback African…

African researchers are calling for supportive policies, increased funding and a collaborative approach to research and development to bridge the gap between scientific research and policy implementation.

Fast playback
African researchers want less foreign funding and more collaboration
They believe that their work will help solve a number of local problems
The continent’s scientists want to help build tomorrow’s world

By Paul Adepoju

It is essential to put in place supportive policies and funding for research and development in Africa that focus on impactful and collaborative approaches, so that everyone benefits from scientific development, according to African researchers.

The researchers, members of theInitiative of Scientific Research Granting Agencies (IOSRS), expressed their views in a working document entitled ” Le Financement de la recherche en Afrique et pour l’Afrique (Research Funding Flows in and for Africa). They also raised the issue in December 2023 at a meeting of delegates held at Future Africa, University of Pretoria, as part of the Science Forum South Africa, in collaboration with the International Scientific Council (ISC).

Future Africa is a collaborative platform for research at the University of Pretoria,  , working across scientific disciplines and with society to address Africa’s greatest challenges.

The researchers pointed out that many problems exist within the current system, including over-dependence on international funding, the fact that they often have to pay out of pocket, and insufficient local financial support for research. One of the consequences, they argue, is that research carried out in several African countries can hardly be expected to effectively tackle certain local problems.

The article also raises issues such as compartmentalization, competition and redundancy of activities. These are all obstacles to effective collaboration and optimal use of resources.

The authors add that it is essential to re-examine the challenges of scientific research in Africa so that the continent can define its scientific priorities, in order to convince governments to invest more in research.

In the article, they propose the creation of a new forum, the Forum for Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa, a collective platform that would enable stakeholders to address these challenges and define priorities. The aim of this forum, which would bring together stakeholders and decision-makers, would be to speak with a single voice and empower the continent’s research ecosystem.

For Farai Kapfudzaruwa, Head of Research and Strategic Partnerships at Future Africa, University of Pretoria, speaking on behalf of the authors, these recommendations illustrate the overarching themes of collaboration, advocacy and a concerted approach to strengthening Africa’s scientific ecosystem.

 ” It is very important that the various initiatives or platforms can best reflect the challenges of scientific research in Africa, so that the strategies put in place are effective in strengthening and developing skills in Africa ,” he said.

Bridging the gap between science and policy

To compensate for the low level of research funding in Africa, Farai Kapfudzaruwa insisted on the need to develop a solid science policy that takes into account the various national priorities.

” A single African science policy would encourage the continent’s countries to increase funding for scientific research. It would also enable donors to familiarize themselves with the continent’s priorities and receive advice on how to make their financial aid as effective as possible “, added Farai Kapfudzaruwa.

He hoped that discussions with the various African governments would focus in particular on the gap between scientific knowledge on the one hand, and government policies on the other. He believes it is essential to create partnerships with credible African scientific organizations.

Raji Tajudeen, head of public health institutes and research at the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), told SciDev.Net that improving the way research findings are applied in real-life contexts is an excellent way of strengthening Africa’s research ecosystem.

” The strategy for implementing the scientific results in the project has strengthened public health research skills in several African countries. “

” Interdisciplinary research is, for us, a key element of our strategic priorities ,” he told SciDev.Net.

Concrete measures

For 2024, Farai Kapfudzaruwa expects progress, with consultation of the various stakeholders in scientific research in Africa, and the establishment of recommendations for the future.

” The most important thing we want to do this year is to ensure that all voices in the scientific ecosystem are heard, that we can develop a coherent strategy and approach based on the needs and wishes of all players in the system,” he added.

Radi Tajudeen agrees with Farai Kapfudzaruwa that inclusion and representativeness are essential in future discussions, if the continent is to define  priorities for scientific research.

The aim is to ensure that African researchers are fully involved and at the heart of research strategies,” says Radi Tajudeen.

” These people from the global North who come with their proposals, their methodologies that they ask us to apply, and who come to do research in Africa, without there being a clearly defined role for African researchers – I think this has to change, it has to stop,” he added. “Our people have to be fully involved,” he concludes.

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