Africa should ramp up its research spending to build the capacity of its researchers, particularly early career researchers. This will not only empower them to deliver the cutting-edge research to enhance Africa’s sustainable development, this is according to the African Academy of Science (AAS).
Science, technology and innovation (STI) are at the heart of the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) recognise that to ensure there is a sustainable transition to knowledge-based economies, the continent needs to rely on scientific research and innovation.
R&D trailing global average
Currently, Africa lags its world counterparts in terms of research and development (R&D) spending a measly 0.45% of its GDP on R&D which is less than the global average of 1.7% and AU’s target of 1%. This means Africa has less than 100 researchers per million, which translates into ten times less than the global average.
African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence
In response, the continent launched the African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE) as a pilot programme in 2020. During its launch, Jutta Urpilainen, the EU’s commissioner for International Partnerships said: “The potential of research excellence in Africa is significant and will be a key driver of development and growth. The ARISE pilot programme is a catalytic milestone for talented early-career scientists, aiming to strengthen Africa’s science and innovation base. It is also a major step for the EU-Africa academic and scientific cooperation to create a knowledge-based society and economy.”
Empowering the next generation
Professor Catherine Ngila, the acting executive director of the AAS, welcome the partnership. Said Ngila: “This strategic partnership with the European Commission in the novel ARISE pilot programme is in line with our commitment to support the development of early career scientists into vibrant research leaders who will contribute to transforming lives in Africa through science. We are fully committed to empowering the next generation of African scientists who will lead the science, technology and innovation agenda and drive sustainable development on the continent.”
Added the EU’s commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel: “This initiative is in line with other on-going efforts, for example under the EU-AU High-Level Policy Dialogue on Science, Technology and Innovation with its investments reaching more than €1.8 billion. It will support African scientists and their capacity to contribute with cutting-edge research, reinforce their potential to benefit from EU research and innovation instruments, as well as enhance collaboration on equal footing with the European continent.”
It is against this background that the AAS announces a call for applications for the ARISE pilot programme. The initiative is funded by the EU through the Pan-African Programme with a commitment of €25 million (~USD30M) to empower early career African researchers to deliver cutting-edge research across Africa.
The pilot programme fits in well with the EU and the AU priorities of co-operation, through the Pan-African Programme. The objective is to build the capacity of at least 40 emerging African researcher leaders across 40 African countries. The ARISE beneficiaries will be awarded grants of up to €500,000 to start their own independent research teams and deliver cutting-edge research in any area of scientific endeavour, over a period of five years.
Who can apply:
The call is open to African researchers with:
- 2-7 years of post-PhD research experience,
- a scientific track record showing great promise and
- an excellent research proposal to conduct cutting-edge research at an African university or research institution.
The call for submission of the preliminary applications (Expressions of Interest) for the ARISE pilot programme grants will be opened from 18 June 2021 to 30 July 2021 after which shortlisted applicants will be invited to submit full applications between September and October 2021.
More information on this call is available at https://www.aasciences.africa/call/arise