Building Implementation Research Capacities of Africa’s Universities and Research Institutes

Project Period

June 2022 - June 2022

A Brief on the Catalyze Impact via Africa-led Implementation Research Initiative 

What is the problem?
Africa’s needs to fully embrace and scale up implementation research (IR) as an integrated concept to better link research and practice to accelerate the development and delivery of public goods and services such as improved health outcomes. Implementation research involves the creation and application of knowledge to improve the implementation of health, agriculture, economics policies, programmes, and practices. Adoption of IR will also ensure that research outputs are more relevant to policy making within the context of African countries.

A recent analysis of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation investments shows that less than 10% of the BMGF research partners are African Institutions, yet Africa faces the most pressing human development needs. Most of the research is therefore conducted in the global north research institutions. In addition, 2019 UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) data indicates that globally only 28% of researchers employed in research and development (R&D) are women. Therefore, there is need to increase the number of women involved in Implementation Research (IR). Consequently, APHRC has been tasked to work with African universities and research institutes to improve their inclusion and effective participation as direct grantees of the BMGF and other donors’ implementation research.

What are the initiative’s objectives?
This initiative aims to increase in the number of African universities and research institutes that capably test, and adopt evidence and innovations generated from health, agriculture, economics research as global public goods to achieve health impact. This will ultimately result in a strengthened ecosystem for Implementation Research in Africa, anchored on a network of highly capacitated academic and research institutions on the continent. The specific objectives of the project are:
a) Greater visibility for African researchers and academic institutions as drivers of adoption of research and innovation, evidence generation and policy change. We envisage an increase in the number of African-led, large-scale initiatives that drive policy discourse at national and regional level and in the number of African universities/research institutes in structured formalized advisory roles for their respective governments
b) More African-led IR initiatives aligned with priority areas as well as local, national and regional research priorities
c) A strong network of health innovators and stronger connections between academic and research institutions, decision makers and the private sector that drive adoption of innovations and evidence-driven changes in policy and practice
d) A more enabling IR environment for African women and men academics and researchers through the establishment of learning, support, and networking platforms
e) Cross-cutting continent-wide platforms accessible to researchers and academics in Africa for: learning and knowledge exchange; greater data access and use; strengthening IR practice and faster uptake of innovations

What are the projects outcomes?
At the end of the initiative, we expect the following outcomes:

1. The number of African universities/research institutes that are successful direct grantees is increased by at least 10 percentage points in all four sub-regions of Africa.
2. Scalable, modular learning platforms to enable the spread of innovations on optimized, cost-effective quality research design and execution are installed in selected African universities/research institutes and are in use by 40% of participating African universities/research institutes.
3. There is equitable distribution of men and women in all aspects of the program i.e. there is a minimum 40:60 gender ratio in all grants awarded, applicable to the project leadership, team members and beneficiaries.
4. Prototypes of an impact-oriented and well-performing university health research system implanted into government decision-making systems are co-designed, costed and adopted by governments in priority countries.
5. One priority country, informed by research undertaken by its partner university/research institute, and resources to strengthen its capacity, has successfully implemented one impactful national policy to accelerate the impact of MNCH/FP/Nutrition/Malaria/Agriculture/Financial Services for the Poor.
6. The foundational steps are developed for the design and a continent-wide adoption of an African-owned and managed Clinical Trials Registration system that is approvable by continental political (Africa Union) and technical leadership (NEPAD and African Medicines Agency).
7. A regional data repository is established and in use by at least 20% of universities/research institutes that are direct grantees.

How does the project intend to achieve the goals?
During the ongoing formative phase, consultations will be held with governments, universities and research institutes to:
a) Build a database of all the universities in Africa that have the capacity to conduct health, agriculture, and financial research
b) Build capacities for universities and research institutes capacity to link up with to acquire research grants and conduct required high level research activities
c) Design and run a matching service for universities/research institutes based in all the regions of Africa and funding agencies for R&D, policy, and delivery
d) Configure and run an Africa-wide platform-based capacity building for universities/research institutes based in all of Africa’s regions, to increase their capabilities to do more and perform better on a sustained basis along the spectrum of implementation research
e) Design and develop prototypes in selected countries, to link country decision-making systems with national research systems for adoption/scale-up of R&D innovations
f) Strengthen the African innovation-research ecosystem by developing and deploying connectors – platforms that have cross-cutting benefits to researchers and decision-makers.

Who are the stakeholders
The initiative will work with universities and research institutes in Africa to ensure that they are ready to receive funding directly from donors. Build the capacity of universities and research institutes in Africa to build institutional mechanisms that support and promote high-level research activities. We will also work with the governments in each targeted country to ensure that the research that is generated and other products informs policymaking. We will also work with media and communication entities to communicate the research outputs that are generated.

Target countries
The initiative targets all countries in Africa. The initiative will be inclusive of Anglophone, Lusophone, and Francophone countries to ensure that there is equitable distribution of research in all parts of Africa.