Report summary

The path to research leadership in Africa and India

Most theories of leadership focus on high-income countries, with comparatively little research on leadership in low-income countries. These reports explore the landscape of research leadership in Africa and India, based on interviews with more than 600 researchers and research leaders.

The work in Africa was conducted by Vitae and commissioned by Wellcome and the African Academy of Sciences. The work in India was conducted by The INCLEN Trust International and commissioned by Wellcome in partnership with the India Alliance

Key findings 

Pathway to leadership in Africa 

  • Successful African research leadership requires relational qualities – such as being a role model, developing a vision and strategy, and focusing on societal impact and the common good of the community. 
  • Early-career researchers in Africa cannot always focus on developing their research expertise, because there is a lack of support with research management and administration. 
  • Many talented researchers still rely on North-South collaborations for their career development. 
  • Institutions should be strategic about developing their researchers by spotting leadership potential, encouraging formal and informal development opportunities at all career stages, and supporting mentoring, coaching and gender equality initiatives. 

Pathway to leadership in India

  • Successful Indian research leadership requires relevant personal traits and competencies, research management skills and the ability to build strong teams, self-awareness and work-life balance, and engagement and advocacy within and beyond the host institution. 
  • Institutions can promote research leadership by allowing space for intellectual freedom, encouraging a culture of excellence and healthy competition among peers, valuing research, and having a functional grant management office.