Skip to main content

2019 Annual Update

Accelerating science, technology and innovation impact

Annual Update

2019 Annual Update

As the only pan-African science Academy, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) is sharply focused on implementation of programmes, grantmaking, advocacy, recognising scientific excellence and shaping the continent’s science agenda. In realising this mandate, approaches have been refined to shape and revolutionise the promotion and development of science and technology on the continent.

Since the establishment of the agenda-setting, funding and programme management platform, the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) in partnership with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD), we appreciate the role that our programmes can play in the research pipeline for scientists. Progressing from early career scientists to senior researchers, innovators and eventually becoming Fellows of the African Academy of Sciences based on the recognition of their work.

Here is a highlight of our programmatic work in 2019:

At a Glance

15

Programmes

186

Grantees

$107M

Investments

Re-energising R&D leadership and infrastructure

Our flagship programme, Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS) Africa funds collaborative networks/consortia led by Africa-based scientists to amplify Africa-led development of world-class research and scientific leaders on the continent, while strengthening African institutions. The first phase supported the training of 1,496 undergraduate, master’s, PhD, postdoctoral and senior researchers.

DELTAS Africa invited applications in 2019 that sought to balance research excellence and equity by encouraging collaborative networks of researchers that are relatively rich and relatively poor in support resources. This second phase of the DELTAS Africa programme is enabled by a new $72M investment from Wellcome and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), extending the programme for an additional five years, to 2025.

The Heredity and Health for Africa (H3Africa), which is a multi-million, multi-country and multi-year genomic research programme to increase understanding of how human genes and the environment are contributing to Africa’s increased susceptibility to diseases inspired the creation of the AAS Data and Biospecimen Governance Committee, which will provide guidelines for collecting, storing and sharing data and specimens in ways that protect study participants from exploitation, benefit African citizens and provide a resource for governments to create their own data policies. H3Africa was launched in 2010 as a partnership among the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Wellcome, and the African Society of Human Genetics (AfSHG). The AAS joined in 2016 to manage the Wellcome component of the programme, recruiting four grantees from Ethiopia, South Africa, the Gambia and Uganda.

The establishment of the Clinical Trials Community (CTC) is to strengthen all aspects of clinical trials and translational sciences capacity in Africa. In 2019, the Academy hosted seven consultative workshops for scientists across the continent to establish the structure and format of this collaborative platform. These discussions will shape the development of this platform, currently underway.

Dr Lily Paemka, a DELTAS Africa postdoctoral fellow

investigating breast cancer in Ghana

Investing in future generations of scientists

Participants at the Connecting Minds Africa Conference, which provided a platform for early career researchers to network and share their researcher

$21M Investment

192
Postdocs

29
Areas of expertise

The Academy’s postdoctoral portfolio includes six programmes — Affiliates, African Postdoctoral Training Initiative (APTI), Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR), AESA-RISE Postdoctoral Fellowshship, Climate Research for Development (CR4D), Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) and SINCERE (Spurring INnovations for forest eCosystem sERvices in Europe). Each is designed to develop young research leaders who are able to conduct globally competitive research in African universities and research institutes and who contribute to building knowledge-based economies on the continent. Inspired by the dearth of postdoctoral opportunities in Africa, these programmes provide an array of skills training with a total investment of $21 M, enabling PhD graduates to hone their research skills to position them to become tomorrow’s seasoned research leaders.

The AAS Mentorship Scheme was established in 2019 and has so far paired 72 early career researchers from FLAIR and the Affiliates programmes with senior mentors to support and guide them in grant writing, career path development, job application, research networking, science communication and research publishing, among other essential career development needs. In 2020, the mentorship agenda will be extended to include other programmes of the AAS.

Closing critical gaps

The recruitment and training of future generations of scientists requires a thriving R&D ecosystem to create an enabling environment to develop ideas, generate knowledge and retain African talent on the continent. The past five years of funding research across the continent have allowed the Academy to delve deeper into the African R&D landscape and broaden knowledge of it. This knowledge has led to the launch of yet more new programmes to address constraints in the research ecosystem including the Africa Science Desk, Community and Public Engagement, the Global Grant Community, Mobility Grants and Research Management Programme in Africa (ReMPro Africa). These programmes are designed to build the capacity of journalists to report on science, promote the participation of the public in research, strengthen financial governance systems, accelerate collaboration among Africans and Indians, and address systemic challenges at African institutions to create and sustain research environments that enable research to flourish, respectively.

Programmes under the critical gaps strategic focus areas address constraints in the research ecosystem.


$11.6M Investment

105
Grantees

Fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation

Grand Challenges Africa provides seed and full grants to the continent’s most impressive innovators targeted at addressing big health and development challenges that are preventing African countries from reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2019, GC Africa raised an additional $6.5 M, to create total funding of $28 M. This resulted in three new calls: the Data Science Approaches to Improve Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health in Africa, Maternal Neonatal & Child Health (MNCH) and GCA-JPIAMR, which added new grantees bringing the number to 53 in 2019.

Dr Jesse Gitaka, a Kenya-born Grand Challenges Africa grantee and AAS Affiliate

Recognising Scientific Excellence

In 2019, we continued with our core mandate of recognising excellence of electing Fellows and Affiliates marked by a revision of the nomination process to enable us to diversify disciplines, gender and country representation.

462

Fellows

72

Women

347

Men

34

Founding Fellows

12

Honorary Fellows

32

Associate Fellows

Science Advocacy

Together with the AUDA-NEPAD Agency, we are implementing a scientific prioritisation exercise built on white papers developed for MNCH and climate change research to guide Africa’s Science, Technology and Innovation agenda toward projects that have the greatest potential to effect change, notwithstanding limited resources. Their implementation will be driven through the Empowering African Ownership of the African Research and Innovation Agenda to Accelerate Progress created to engage with Africa’s science leaders to identify the top 10-15 scientific priorities that if addressed, offer the highest return on investment for Africa.

A partnership with the African Institute for Policy Development (AFIDEP), in which the Evidence Leaders in Africa (ELA) project, with $638,811 in funding, seeks to expand the leadership of scholars and scientists through the use of evidence in policy formulation and implementation by African governments over a period of two years.

Our science advocacy initiatives reflect our convening power and seek to define scientific priorities to invest in.


2
MoUs signed

4
white papers on Africa's STI priorities