Making a Presentation at the Annual Forum of the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI), Nodumo Dhlamini, the Director for ICT, Communications and Knowledge Management of the Association of African Universities has stated that impactful successes and outcomes have been recorded by the project partners managing the Research Management component of the initiative – the Association of African Universities (AAU), and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). According to her, these have greatly contributed to empowering the SGCs to effectively facilitate harnessing the potential of research to promote inclusive growth and development in Africa.
The SGCI Annual Forum is being hosted by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, in Cape Town, South Africa, from 4th -6th December 2022. The meeting is being attended by over 120 participants consisting of all the key stakeholders of the Science Granting Councils Initiative – including the development and funding agencies, 17 Science Granting Councils from the 17 participating African countries under the project, the project council members, project advisors, project executive committee members, implementing partners, researchers, doctoral students, and other invited guests. The Association of African Universities, which is the lead for the Research Management Project, is being represented by Professor Damtew Teferra, Director of Research and Programmes; Ms. Nodumo Dhlamini, Director of ICT, Communications and Knowledge Management; Mrs. Ruth Issambo Nyarko, Project Officer for the Science Granting Councils Initiative and Mrs. Felicia Nkrumah Kuagbedzi, Senior Communications and Publications Officer for the AAU. From the AAS side, the representatives are Dr Obed Ogega, Programmes Manager and Mr Roland Opisa, Programme Officer.
The Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) is a multilateral initiative established in 2015 that is strengthening the institutional capacities of 17 public science funding agencies in Sub-Saharan Africa to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development. Since its inception, the SGCI has provided significant financial and technical support to strengthen the Science Granting Councils in the 17 participating countries of the initiative, namely- Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra, Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This second phase of the SGCI is scheduled to end on the 28th February 2022.
The Association of African Universities and the African Academy of Sciences are the implementing partners of the component of the initiative focusing on Strengthening the capacity of Science Granting Councils in Research Management. Under this component, impactful successes and outcomes have been recorded, empowering the SGCs to effectively facilitate harnessing the potential of research to promote inclusive growth and development, and eradicate poverty in the region.
The huge successes recorded under the Research Management component of the Initiative, as highlighted in the presentation by the AAU and AAS include the training and provision of technical support to the Councils on research excellence, research ethics and the Good Financial Grant Practices – a certification which strategically positions institutions to be considered for funding by major public and private funders.
It was also reported that a total of three SGCs have completed the pre-certification process- Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe; four SGCs are going through the pre-certification process – Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia and five SGCs have attended planning meetings to prepare to undertake the pre-certification exercise- Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal.
The AAU and AAS with the support of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) have also supported the councils to establish and effectively implement a generic online grants management system, which is well equipped with multi-lingual functionalities, and which will greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Councils in managing their grant processes.
The partners have also trained a total of seventy-four (74) staff from the SGCs, including monitoring, evaluation and learning experts; grants officers; software developers; project managers; and ICT technical support staff on the use of the Generic Online Grants Management System developed under the Project.
These trainings, as reported, were held in the following SGCI participating countries – Ghana (12-13 April 2022, 20 staff trained); Burkina Faso (5th – 6th May 2022, 15 Staff trained); Zimbabwe (14th – 15th June 2022, 15 Staff Trained); Malawi (14th – 15th July 2022, 9 Staff trained); Cote d’Ivoire (21st – 22nd September 15 Staff trained).
Overall, a total of 7 Councils were reported to have implemented the Generic Online Grants Management System developed by the UNCST through funding support from the project. These are the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology; the Research Council of Zimbabwe, Fonds National de la Recherche et de l’Innovation pour le Developpement, Burkina Faso; the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, Namibia; Fonds pour la Science, la Technologie et l’Innovation, Cote d’Ivoire; the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ghana; and the National Commission for Science and Technology, Malawi.
Responding to the paucity of current resources, frameworks, and procedures for quality research management, the project has also produced three key manuals for usage by the participating councils and other general stakeholders. First is the Grant Management Digitalization Framework; second – the Ethics in Research and Innovation: a Guiding Framework for Science Granting Councils and finally a Manual on Research Excellence
Again, the Research Management component of the Science Granting Councils Initiative conducted National and Regional Studies focusing on Deepening Knowledge and Implementation of Research Ethics in the African Context. A digital course on the Research Quality Plus Framework to strengthen the capacity of SGCs in research excellence was also developed under the project.
The Association of African Universities, and the African Academy of Sciences, further created the requisite platform to support peer-to-peer learning and promote knowledge sharing among the councils. Among others, the project organised a peer-to-peer learning meeting in Uganda from 26th – 28th October 2022 in collaboration with the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, which featured 35 participants from 12 SGCs. It built the capacity of Councils to facilitate implementation of online research permit issuance systems and developed Guidelines on Staff Exchange and Learning Visits which was widely disseminated among the SGCs. Additionally, participants at the SGCI Annual forum were informed that the AAU and AAS organised a collective lessons learning meeting focusing on the Online Grants Management Systems and facilitated the general visibility of the project through the engagement of the media and other key stakeholders. Contributing to the discussions at the forum, Prof. Damtew Teferra highlighted the need for the project partners and stakeholders to scale the project from its current coverage of 15 countries to the rest of the continent to ensure that the entire continent benefits from the Science Granting Councils Initiative.
The 2022 Annual Forum by the Science Granting Councils Initiative is being hosted alongside other key Science/Research Events including the World Science Forum, the Global Research Council Africa Regional Consultative Meeting, The Academic Symposium by the SGCI, and the NRF Carnegie Corporation PERKA final Conference on Early Career Researcher Development in the Post PhD Phase.
Written By: Felicia Nkrumah Kuagbedzi, Senior Communications and Publications Officer, AAU
Reviewed by: Nodumo Dhlamini, Director – ICT, Communications and Knowledge Management