Question One

1. African Resources, and Setting African Agendas

  • Q: How committed are African governments and the private sector to Africa’s own research? Conscious budgetary provisions have to be made and the funds made available at country at levels and AU level. Georgina Yeboah 
  • Q: As Africa thinks of resources from the north there is need for Africa to show commitment in allocating local resources to support research for Africa’s growth and prosperity. Cecilia Mbaka 

A: To be sure: the need for African public and private sector investment in research is recognised explicitly in relevant policy frames at continental, sub-regional and national levels.  Less clear is the extent of actual commitment to such investment. There are signs that governments’ readiness to spend on research is growing.  Latest available data from the UNESCO Science report [Latest available data at present is from 2015. A new UNESCO Science Report with up-to-date data will be released on 11 June], for instance, shows several African countries increasing the share of GDP going to research and development (R&D) and putting in place measures to stimulate private sector engagement in R&D. 

There are also signs of more concerted, collective efforts to support research.  One example is the commitment of funding by five governments to support the training of young scientists, through the Partnership for skills in Applied Science, Engineering and Technology Regional Scholarship Investment Fund. A more recent example, which Alex Ezeh highlighted in the launch discussions, are plans by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to establish a multi-billion USD Africa Knowledge and Capacity Fund, drawing mainly from African governments and private sector and philanthropy) resources, to support research and research ecosystems across the continent. The question is not only whether such – and other, similar plans – will come to fruition, but also whether more is possible.  

We expect the forthcoming UNECSO science report 2021 to provide useful data on how, and how widely, across African countries, research support has evolved in recent years; and useful pointers to possible future areas of engagement for us.