The Journey: How funding and grant management practices propelled APHRC’s steady growth

April 27, 2023


Joseph Gichuru Wang’ombe

Deputy Executive Director


From humble beginnings of less than ten staff and a budget of less than $2 million, which covered the period between 2001-2004, APHRC has grown to be a leading research center bringing together some of the most talented scientists and a well-developed support staff that currently stands at 198 staff from 12 different countries. The last 20 years have been a testament to well-trained personnel, clearly articulated strategic plans and consistent, timely implementation of projects. APHRC’s growth spans successful programs and projects to expand physical infrastructure in tandem with the uptake of highly trained staff.

“APHRC sources its funding predominantly through grants. Other sources are rentals, consultancies, and investments, albeit small. At its infancy, APHRC acquired its funding from the Rockefeller Foundation through the Population Council”, remarked Dr. Gichuru.

The initial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation was worth $ 600,000. This funding enabled Dr. Alex Ezeh, the then Executive Director of APHRC, to set up systems and processes that laid the foundations of the organization. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation also came on board and provided a general support grant of $ 500,000. As of 2001, the number of grants was four, two general support grants and two project grants, which were used to facilitate the transition to a fully autonomous organization and running of the programs.

In 2002, the Center received its first major grant from the Rockefeller Foundation of $2.57 million to cover three years. As the grant was getting to its tail end, the Rockefeller Foundation announced that this would be a tie-off grant. Management, therefore, had to source new funding to maintain staff and carry out the already ongoing programs. Dr. Gichuru, the then finance, and administration manager, recalled how everyone had to roll up their sleeves to keep the cogs of the organization going.

Over the years, APHRC has been supported by a diverse range of donors that include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Google.Org, Comic Relief, Wellcome Trust, Packard Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Department for International Development (DfID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Sida, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Development Research Center (IDRC, Canada), Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Government of Kenya to name but a few.

Dr. Gichuru states that cultivating good relationships with funders and partners is the organization’s top priority. The chart below clearly shows the financial growth trajectory of APHRC over the last 20 years.

“Our funding has grown from strength to strength, and we can attribute this to quality delivery on programs and good corporate governance, including integrity, transparency, and accountability. Besides ensuring that our research informs policy and practice, we undertake research and related capacity strengthening for individuals and institutions.”

“A team of well-trained staff pitch ideas during workshops and conferences, budget, and write grant proposals. We also engage a team that scouts for funding opportunities. Due to consistently enhancing our relationship with the donor community, about 60% of funding comes from invited calls”.

In May 2011, APHRC moved its operations to a new location. Five years later, the Center acquired an additional 3.1 acres of land next to its current headquarters for the second phase of the campus development, comprising a residential training Center called Ulwazi Place.

Twenty years on, APHRC had increased its operating income 20-fold to US$22 million, and in 2019, APHRC opened a regional office in West Africa in Dakar, Senegal.

The Good Financial Grant Practice (GFGP): the world’s first international standard in grant management, owned by the African Standardization Organization (ARSO) and managed by the African Academy of Sciences Global Grant Community, awarded APHRC the highest certification: Platinum Tier ranking in 2022 for meeting excellent grant management practices. The year also saw APHRC receive an unrestricted grant of $15 million from the Mackenzie organization based on donor confidence.

“APHRC has proved itself as an internationally accredited research and policy institution. In the future, we plan on consolidating funding to access bigger grants for greater impact in African research and policy”, Dr. Gichuru opined.