Africa and Asia: building strong research ecosystems
Africa and Asia face some of the world’s greatest health challenges, but their research capacity is not yet sufficient to meet them. We’re supporting researchers in these continents to build strong research ecosystems that drive innovation, inspire the next generation of outstanding researchers, and improve health for millions.
What we're doing
We’re working across several areas to achieve our goals.
Building a resilient future for research
Wellcome already supports some of the best African and Indian researchers through programmes and initiatives like the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), our Africa and Asia Programmes, and The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance.
But we can do more to create an environment where research flourishes in the long term, supported by strong leaders and governance, with reliable and diverse sources of funding.
Focusing first on Africa, we’re establishing the Coalition for Research and Innovation (CARI), alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and AESA. CARI will encourage African nations to increase investment in research and development and to set their own research agendas, working alongside global partners.
We've also commissioned research on how to strengthen national health research systems in Africa [PDF 1.65MB], including a regional analysis [PDF 963KB]. Find out more about the project on the London School of Economics website.
Investing in research leaders
We want the world-class researchers we fund to become leaders who will influence policy, inspire the next generation of researchers, and build outstanding research ecosystems.
We’re working to define the specific skills and qualities that research leaders in Africa and Asia need, so we can support our partners to commission leadership training that’s tailored to their requirements.
We’re also supporting the Science and Language Mobility Scheme Africa and the Africa-India Mobility Fund (AIMF), to help increase scientific collaboration between research leaders in Africa and India.
We've commissioned research looking at language as a barrier to health science research in Africa [PDF 2.3MB], including a policy brief [PDF 325KB] with practical recommendations. You can also read the findings in:
- Arabic – report [PDF 2.06MB], policy brief [PDF 311KB]
- French – report [PDF 2.15MB], policy brief [PDF 342KB]
- Portuguese – report [PDF 2.16MB], policy brief [PDF 337KB]
- Swahili – report [PDF 2.17MB], policy brief [PDF 322KB].
Better research management support
We fund our researchers to do research, not administration. But we know this requires excellent research management support from institutions, which isn’t always available.
Now we’re working with others, including AESA and The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, to develop a more coordinated approach to supporting research managers and the research systems at institutions. Through AESA we’re also developing a set of standards for the financial management of grants at African institutions.
We’re part of the ESSENCE on Health Research initiative which brings together funders of research to influence and inform policy, and learn from good practice. We’re also involved in the Research Management and Implementation Science working groups, overseen by ESSENCE.
Find out more about why research management is important, and what we're doing in this area [PDF 723KB].
What is the research ecosystem?
- researchers and the outputs they produce
- research managers and the institutions they work for
- funders and governments who support research
- policymakers who use the research to drive change to achieve better health
- engagement and communication specialists, who share and discuss the findings with the public
- private sector and global pharmaceutical companies, who develop innovative products and employ researchers.
What we want to achieve
We want to continue to shift the centre of gravity for leadership on Africa and Asia’s scientific challenges to the continents themselves.
Building on our existing initiatives, we’ll drive sustainable, resilient and coordinated investment in African and Asian research, and support countries to take charge of their own research agendas.
If we’re successful, then strong and independent research leaders – trained through our programmes and those of our partners – will have the funding and the teams they need to tackle global health and development challenges. These leaders will attract and develop the next generation of researchers, build the case for investment in research, and play a major part in making Africa and Asia destinations for doing world-class science.
Strong research management will underpin vibrant research ecosystems, freeing up researchers’ time so they can concentrate on what they do best.
By acting now we can drive research and innovation in Africa and Asia, strengthen collaborations between the continents and accelerate scientific breakthroughs so that more people can lead healthier lives sooner.
A huge challenge
- A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 36 chance of dying while giving birth; in the developed world the chance is 1 in 4,900.
- Africa accounts for 15% of the world’s population and 25% of the global disease burden, but only produces about 2% of the world’s research.
- With less than 200 researchers per million people, India’s research capacity is much lower than the UK, which has over 4,000 researchers per million.