Skip to main content


Scientific prioritisation key to achieving the 2030 SDGs in Africa


Back to News

Scientific prioritisation key to achieving the 2030 SDGs in Africa

Scientific prioritisation key to achieving the 2030 SDGs in Africa
Africa, 8 February 2021

Urgent priorities identified by African scientific and political community require investments by African governments and global funders if Africa is to achieve the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs)

The African Academy of Sciences through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is today releasing three key policy papers on urgent scientific priorities offering the highest return on investment. The priorities are on genomic and precision medicine; data and biospecimen governance; and climate change.
AESA, through its African Science Technology and Innovation Priority Setting programme (ASP), engages Africa's science leaders and political stakeholders to identify the top scientific priorities over a five-year period that will culminate in a set of position papers published and disseminated to relevant stakeholders. These will be published in the form of outcome reports, policy papers and policy briefs.
In 2019 and 2020, outcome reports were published on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH);  climate change;  food security and nutrition;  epidemic preparedness/COVID-19; and gender and science. The reports have since been circulated across critical stakeholders in the continent to inform and guide continental investment decisions.


The policy papers released today have been validated by an eminent scientific advisory board formed by representatives from African regional and economic blocs, funding partners, policymakers, scientists, and African governments. Below are summaries from the priority papers.
Data and Biospecimen Governance Scientific Priority
A lot of research is done within the African continent between African researchers and international partners. Typically, data collected by international collaborators is not analysed locally due to limited human capacity and infrastructure. However, this has denied local professionals an opportunity to give input on final products and acquire training on skills to process different data. Unfortunately, many African governments either lack legal clauses on collection and usage of data sourced from their countries or have not implemented existing guidelines efficiently.
A data and biospecimen governance (DBG) expert committee was convened in 2019 to discuss, consult and produce a policy paper addressing governance issues relevant to Africa around the use and re-use of health research data and biospecimens. The committee detail three DBG priorities that need to be urgently addressed. These are:

  • Engage funders and institutions to uphold African data and biospecimen governance policy.
  • Establish systems for data governance and build the capacity of African data custodians.

You can access the full paper here
Genomics and Precision Medicine Scientific Priority
The African human genome potentially carries information crucial to unlocking novel pathways to the development of better drugs, therapies, clinical practices and policies that could impact healthcare delivery globally. However, this diversity is under-represented in the current human reference genome, which guides key decisions regarding human variation and disease and hence limits potential benefits to African populations. The process for identifying the role of genomics and precision medicine in helping more Africans access tailored healthcare and delivering precision medicine for public health was implemented through the Human Heredity Health in Africa (H3Africa) task force. The task force/expert committee has generated a policy paper to engage African governments, global partners and key stakeholders.
The genomics and precision medicine scientific priority provides a framework of how existing infrastructure can be leveraged to kick start precision medicine roll out in Africa. The process of developing this framework was led by members of the H3Africa consortium, which supports population-based studies that use genetic, clinical, and epidemiological tools to better understand the relationship between human genes and the environment to improve the health of African populations. The genomics and precision medicine priorities identified include:

  • African-specific knowledge base on genomics.
  • Strong data infrastructure for collection, storage, synthesis & interpretation.
  • Capacity strengthening for healthcare professionals.
  • Advanced clinical facilities.
  • Regulations, governance & ethics.

You can access the full paper here
Climate Change Scientific Priority
Africa contributes least to global greenhouse gas emissions at only 4% yet is hardest hit by the impacts of climate change. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) projections for 2020, suggested that between 75 and 250million people in Africa are exposed to increased water stress while yields from rain-fed agriculture are probably reduced by up to 50% in some countries because of climate change. There is a paucity of peer reviewed research outputs on climate change in Africa compared with the rest of the world. Periodic assessments of the state of the world's climate conducted by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rely on peer reviewed data and therefore have minimal input from African scientists.
In July 2019, ASP collaborated with the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa and through coordination with IPCC convened African scientists and key policy stakeholders to deliberate on key climate change chal­lenges and identify priority actions. The meeting identified the following priority areas on climate change and development in Africa.

  • Building African climate research capacity needs.
  • Climate science and policy interface.
  • Climate change and the African Union agenda 2063.

You can access the full paper here
The ASP programme is presently drafting outcome documents for mental health and the fourth industrial revolution, which will be published in the first quarter of this year.

                                                         _____ ENDS______

Notes for Editors

African STI Priority Setting Programme
The Africa Academy of Sciences in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), is convening scientists to identify and validate key research priorities for the continent through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA). Once identified, AESA will disseminate and advocate for such priorities with an aim to inform investment decisions by African governments and global funders, support rapid and effective alignment of the African scientific leadership and major funding partners, and ultimately direct resources toward those projects deemed most critical to scientific and development progress in Africa. The ASP programme is implemented through AESA and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA)
The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) is a funding, agenda-setting and programme management initiative created in 2015 through a partnership between the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) founding and funding global partners, and through a resolution of the summit of African Union Heads of Governments.
AESA’s mission is to shift the centre of gravity for African science to Africa through agenda setting and scientific prioritisation, mobilising Research & Development (R&D) funding, and managing continent-wide Science, Technology & Innovation (STI) programmes that promote the brightest minds; strengthen the best possible science environments in Africa; foster scientific excellence; inspire and mentor emerging research leaders; and accelerate and translate research & innovations into products, policies and practices that will improve and transform lives in Africa.
The African Academy of Sciences 
The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) is a non-aligned, non-political, not-for-profit pan African organisation whose vision is to see transformed lives on the African continent through science. Our tripartite mandate is recognising excellence, providing advisory and think tank functions, and implementing key STI programmes addressing Africa’s developmental challenges. The Academy’s five strategic focus areas include: Environment and climate change; health and wellbeing; natural sciences; policy and governance; and social sciences and humanities.
Join us on and Twitter @AASciences and learn more by visiting
African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD)
The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is the development agency of the African Union, coordinating and executing priority regional and continental development projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realisation of Agenda 2063 – Africa's vision and action plan
Media Enquiries
The African Academy of Sciences, Nairobi, Kenya
Davies Mbela I +254 726 604 720