The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) has won the 2015 United Nations Population Award. The award, established in 1981, is given annually by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to honor individuals and institutions who have made outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population issues and their solutions.
APHRC is a leading pan-African, non-governmental organization committed to conducting world-class, policy-relevant research on population, health, education and other development issues in sub Saharan Africa. APHRC was established in 1995 as a Population Policy Research Fellowship program of the Population Council, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2001, APHRC became an independent organization headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
Since then, APHRC has conducted numerous high-quality and policy-relevant studies on sexual reproductive health and rights, maternal, newborn and child health, non-communicable diseases, ageing in Africa, urbanization and poverty, and access to and quality of education among others. Today, APHRC is recognized as an unbiased source of evidence on population and health issues, to guide the development of policies and programs that can be adopted in sub-Saharan African countries.
Previous laureates of the prize include outstanding family planning associations, researchers, policymakers, grass-roots organizations, development agencies and national leaders from all over the world. Alongside APHRC, the other 2015 laureate is Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, a former Executive Director of UNFPA.
The Award Committee is chaired by the Czech Ambassador to the United Nations, Edita Hrdá. Other members include Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Denmark, Grenada, Jamaica, Qatar, Tanzania, Nigeria and Pakistan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin are ex-officio members of the committee.
APHRC’s Contributions to Population and Health Issues
APHRC is recognized globally as a preeminent research center conducting research about Africa, by African scientists on issues directly impacting the continent. With over 50 researchers drawn from 13 African countries, APHRC has ongoing research projects in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Cameroon, Malawi, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria. APHRC researchers are sought-after for participation on national, regional, and international technical working groups and are widely published in peer-reviewed journals.
In its 15 years of existence as an independent institution, APHRC has conducted hundreds of research projects, published over 400 peer-reviewed journal articles and nearly 100 technical reports and policy briefing papers, trained more than 200 PhD fellows and over 40 post-doctoral fellows, and shaped policy discourse around developmental issues affecting Africa. APHRC has been at the forefront of furnishing sub-Saharan Africa governments, development partners and civil society with credible scientific evidence to inform their population, health and education policies. Thus, the award also acknowledges the Center’s significant role in brokering knowledge on population and health issues in the region.
APHRC’s research programs aim to improve the understanding of population, health and education, through innovative programs that address the region’s key challenges. Their priority research areas include: Aging and Development in Africa, Education, Health Challenges and Systems, Population Dynamics and Reproductive Health, and Urbanization and Wellbeing. APHRC takes a long-term view of the continent’s trajectory and addresses research questions that have policy relevance today, but are likely to have greater relevance in the decades to come so as to support decision makers in their long-term planning.
Strengthening Research Capacity
APHRC is committed to strengthening professional and institutional research capacity in the region in order to build a critical mass of Africans that can conduct high quality research and use the evidence generated to shape decision making for development in their countries. The Center runs targeted scientific and methodological seminars, and hosts research traineeships, internships, post-doctoral and sabbatical fellowships and scholar exchanges. APHRC is currently leading the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA), a $20 million multi-country, multi-institutional partnership to strengthen PhD training of junior faculties at nine partner African universities in the broad fields of population and health research. 115 fellows have benefited from this transformative initiative.
The center also runs the African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship (ADDRF) Program, which has supported over 150 fellows in more than 20 countries to complete their doctoral training.
Right from inception, APHRC has advocated for the use of research evidence in decision-making and has put in place systems to ensure the Center’s research products are locally-owned, relevant and responsive to local policy and program needs. Through its policy engagement and communications division, researchers are supported to engage in continuous dialogue with policy makers and program managers at all stages of the research process. Collaboration with policy makers in research projects, targeted policy engagement and dissemination events, serving on various international panels, and the mass media are some of the Center’s key channels for enhancing the role of research in policy and programmatic decisions.
At the global level, the Center’s research has been instrumental in changing the narrative about population growth, urbanization, poverty and wellbeing. In the last decade, the global development community has come to the realization that poverty is not just a rural phenomenon but that millions of people are living in extreme poverty on the fringes of society in urban informal settlements or slums. This has influenced a paradigm shift in pro-poor programming by development partners and national governments from being almost exclusively rural-focused to urban and rural-focused. The Center is also at the forefront of the discourse on Data for African Development and how countries can drive a homegrown data revolution that is needed to inform decision-making but also effectively monitor the impact of major development programs.
In Kenya, research conducted by the Center has influenced decisions in education policy around support for non-formal schools and teacher qualifications; in sexual reproductive health around inclusion of budget lines for Family Planning in national and county-level health budgets, and policies on emancipated minors; in the management of non-communicable disease conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure at primary health care facilities; strengthening of guidelines for improving post-abortion care; social protection for older people among others.
Statements from APHRC Leadership
“APHRC exists for a moment like this. We are uniquely driven by the desire to improve the volume, relevance, and quality of research in Africa by Africans that ultimately improves the wellbeing of Africans. We remain committed to our vision – that the people of Africa enjoy the highest possible quality of life through policies and practices informed by robust scientific evidence.” Agyeman Akosa, PhD, Chair of the Board, APHRC
This award symbolizes the institutional journey APHRC has made since the start of independent operations in 2001. We remain committed to generating the evidence base needed to put important issues on the agendas of governments and development partners before they become a crisis—and keep them there until they are ameliorated. Our work ends when the people of Africa enjoy the highest possible quality of life. Alex Ezeh, PhD, Executive Director, APHRC
“At APHRC we believe that African voices must be heard in matters that concern the continent’s development. Those voices must be well-informed and we are working to make sure that more and more Africans generate good research evidence, communicate this evidence at the right time and in a way understood by everybody. We welcome this global recognition and are grateful for the support from the hundreds of partners and, funders over the years. ” Catherine Kyobutungi, PhD, Director of Research, APHRC
“This award spotlights APHRC’s story of commitment to improving the quality of life for the people of Africa. It also dynamizes us to do more! Our persuasion is that a child born today in Africa should enjoy a better quality of life than one born 15 years ago. This is possible; and we are playing our part in that vision. The Population Dynamics and Reproductive Health Research Program at APHRC is the go-to unit for robust evidence to guide choices and decisions on key population and sexual and reproductive health issues affecting Africa.” Chimaraoke Izugbara, PhD, Director, Research Capacity Strengthening Division and Head, Population Dynamics and Reproductive Health Program, APHRC