The Collaboration for Research Excellence in Africa
CORE Africa
"Strengthening Research Capacity in Africa"

'Strengthening Researchapacitypy in Africa'


Tackling the research capacity challenge in Africa: An overview of African-led approaches to strengthen research capacity

Study Summary

African countries have for decades been faced with development challenges and incapacity to  properly address their own health problems. Locally-led research is critical for identifying and overcoming health and development challenges in Africa. Africa accounts for 17% of the world's population and 24% of the global disease burden. Yet, there is a mismatch between this increased burden and the technical and human capacity to tackle these challenges. Most African countries lack the capacity to build a local evidence-base with which to inform policies and improve health. This is largely due to the absence of a solid research workforce, lack of research leaders, lack of training facilities and an unsuitable research environment in Africa. Improving the status quo depends on Africa‚Äôs ability to generate, adapt and use scientific knowledge to address its health and development needs.

Current literature on research capacity strengthening (RCS) in Africa is large and diverse, with varying ideologies and concepts. However, the contributions and priorities of African-led organisations towards strengthening research capacity in Africa remain unclear. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of African organisations that support RCS, and the major initiatives or approaches being used for this purpose. This data is then analysed to identify potential gaps and opportunities that future RCS-supporting organisations could build on. This report also aims to inform the RCS mission of CORE Africa. This findings would help identify areas where CORE Africa can best contribute, and opportunities for collaboration and/or complementarity. These would also be useful to other stakeholders working towards the realisation of sustainable locally-led research in Africa.

Key Findings and Recommendations

Eleven organisations were identified, spread across South, Central, East and West Africa. The main approaches to improving research capacity were by providing opportunities for academic research, and opportunities for research training. Initiatives to provide research equipment, funding and facilitate research use for policy-making were limited; while strategies to increase research awareness, promote collaboration, and provide guidance and incentives for research were lacking. Most organisations had programs for researchers and academics, with none targeting funders or the general public. 

  • African researchers need to take ownership of the RCS process, in order to develop programs that are relevant to the African context and address priority needs in African countries
  • Education systems in Africa need to be more research-focused. Research needs to be introduced at an earlier stage of academic curricula, to help develop a research- oriented learning culture and promote interest in research

  • RCS organisations in Africa need to develop initiatives that help funders understand what works to improve research capacity in Africa, to inform funding decisions for effective and sustainable programs

  • African RCS organisations need to raise societal awareness on the importance of research in Africa, to enable appreciation for its need and create opportunities for engagement in research by the general public

  • Future RCS initiatives should address the factors that emerged as low priorities or critical factors in this study


Local leadership is essential for improving research capacity in Africa. In addition to providing adequate support to academics and researchers, initiatives that help revitalise the education system in Africa, promote collaboration and engage funders and the general public will be helpful for strengthening research capacity in Africa.