Funding for research in Africa: Prof. Bassirou Bonfoh, Director General of CSRS, presents the challenges

Funding for research in Africa very often relates to the volume of cash "fresh". This definition limits the propensity of researchers to identify the diversity of resources to conduct their research. In fact, the resources are multiple and three mainly represent the basis for attracting funds. The first is the state of the institutional environment (universities, institutes and centers) and technical (laboratories and other areas of experimentation) of research; The second resource is the partnership which allows the pooling of resources with the expression of comparative advantages. It generates added value if principles [1] are respected; The third resource represents the research funds that can emanate complementary funds from bilateral and multilateral cooperations, foundations, companies, private, philanthropists and very rarely from states [2] as far as Africa is concerned. Research is expensive and the effects are noticeable in the short, medium and long term for basic research and this is rarely understood in Africa. Moreover, the current environment and the means of financing do not allow the expression of research in response to social and environmental concerns and especially to the so-called free one.

Apart from the efforts of a few countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and recently Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia, the objective of 1% of African GDP devoted to research is Despite the strategies adopted.  Even if the criteria are sometimes to be questioned, African universities and especially Francophone universities are poorly classified internationally. We must come to the hundred to find an African university. This illustrates a poor picture for certain development factors (health, food security). Africa accounts for 15% of the world's population and accounts for 25% of the overall burden of disease. However, in the face of these major challenges, it concentrates only 2% of research results and only 1% of capacity at the global level. Difficulties In addition to their low proportion, research results are weak and unevenly distributed and inadequate funding dilutes scientific quality (Prof. Abegaz, African Academy of Sciences). This is due to insufficient infrastructure and a structural shortage of skilled scientific personnel. With only about 80 scientists and engineers per million inhabitants compared with nearly 150, 2500 and 4000 respectively in Brazil, Europe and the United States, it is clear that research is the engine of development. The main perceived obstacle is inadequate funding.

Africa is bursting with a multitude of institutes and research centers but rarely "research universities"; Because, education that feeds on research takes precedence in the strategies of academic institutions and the evaluation of science.  We can summarize the obstacles in Africa in three points: (i) the lack of expression of a research culture, (ii) the research environment that is not conducive to the expression of talent, and (iii) Lack of an institutional mechanism for access to competitive research funds and scientific production. As can be seen, the constraints are multiple and unequally distributed. These obstacles are also the result of the weak infrastructure and a maintenance strategy almost non-existent. In addition, research training and training in governance and research administration are limitations to real research. Indeed, training in governance, administration and research management is the least considered in universities and research centers in Africa. To meet this challenge, the Swiss Center for Scientific Research in Côte d'Ivoire (CSRS) has set up a training module on governance, administration and management of research since 2012. This is the "Learning package" offered in the form of a summer school and could be transformed into a master of research administration.

Possible Models

During a meeting at the University of Oxford (UK) on the sidelines of the meeting of the Grand Challenge (London, October 2016), we spoke through Professor Abegaz (President of the African Academy of Sciences) at On the alignment of our research on the African Union's Sustainable Development Goals (MDGs) and Agenda 2063 that provide a framework and guidelines for research priorities in Africa. Four pillars have been defined: (i) the construction and / or modernization of research infrastructures, (ii) improvement of technical and professional excellence through research training, (iii) promotion and relevance of Innovation associated with entrepreneurship, (iv) creating an enabling environment for the development of innovation, science and technology on the African continent. Taking advantage of the demographic dividend in the growth of the population of Africa and giving priority to the needs of African universities will also be essential. The main recommendation was to focus on long-term partnerships, to target investments in universities, to prioritize the development needs of African countries, and to establish solid mentoring programs with career support opportunities To ensure succession and sustained research. In this perspective, the transfer of the center of gravity of research in Africa is an imperative. Thus, the formation of African alliances and networks around the clusters of skills can help address issues of capacity divergence in Africa. However, it is not bleak in resource mobilization strategies or in the capacity of some institutions to serve as centers of research excellence. We give here three examples that illustrate efforts to improve the research system in Africa. The Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques in Côte d’Ivoire has 65 years of experience. It is an Ivorian-Swiss interdisciplinary research center with a regional research mandate on issues of population well-being and sustainable environmental management. It has autonomy and a private management. Its annual operating budget is about CFAF 1 billion, in the evening $ 1.6 million (2016) of which 30% comes from the grant from both countries and 70% is mobilized by researchers through project management fees Competitive services and services. The total annual budget for input-output research is estimated at CFAF 2 billion (US $ 3.2 million), obtained entirely from competitive national, African and international funds. The CSRS is at 15% success rate on competitive calls, which is a good level if researchers participate in increasing the denominator. The Afrique One Consortium is a model initiated in 2009 by the Wellcome Trust and carried out by Africans within the framework of the African Institutions Initiative. Thanks to a financing of CFAF 4.2 billion, ie $ 6.8 million (2009-2015), 11 African institutions (FIG 2) have made it possible to improve their research funding performance over five years (Table I). This is achieved by strengthening research capacities and improving the working environment of researchers in the "One Health" or "One Health" approach.

This article is part of a series on the future of research funding in low- and middle-income countries, supported by the International Development Research Center (IDRC).

Bassirou Bonfoh, a Togolese scholar and academic, is the Director General of the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques in Côte d'Ivoire (CSRS) and Director of the Afrique One Consortium.
[1] 11 Principles and 7 Questions: Science Switzerland
[2] In Côte d'Ivoire, for a budget of nearly 6,000 billion FCFA, only 5.5 billion, or 0.09%, would be devoted to research (2016).

"Please read the full article on SciDev.Net":

Facebook Twitter Google Plus