DELTAS Africa II Grant Sets stage for effective implementation of CARTA2025

By Daniel Otunge

The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) has received a US$4.4 million grant to support training, research and science communication programs in Africa.

CARTA was awarded the four-year (2023-2026) grant by the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training, and Science in Africa (DELTAS Africa) Phase Two.

Some of the money will be used to fund 24 ongoing doctoral studies and 15 post-doctoral fellowships. Additionally, the grant will help to strengthen science communication and build research capacities of institutions and early career researchers to assume scientific leadership by producing high-quality research on common health and development challenges bedeviling Africa.

During the launch of the award recently, Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, CARTA Co-Director and Executive Director of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), said, “DELTAS Africa II provides a unique opportunity to further strengthen the research ecosystem in Africa. It facilitates greater collaboration, improves research infrastructure, enhances capacity building, and advances collective efforts towards sustainable development.”

Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, CARTA Co-Director and Executive Director of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC)

The grant will support and expand CARTA’s work in line with the program’s five-year strategic plan, CARTA2025. It will also be used to set up at least two competitively selected research hubs at CARTA African partner institutions.

At the launch of the grant, CARTA awarded sub-grants to five research teams to develop concepts for the Research Hubs. The hubs will serve as centers of excellence in key priority areas and facilitate knowledge exchange and multi-disciplinary collaboration.

For instance, the hubs will address (in a multidisciplinary manner) the complexity of health issues, such as the social-economic, political and environmental determinants of health and health systems. CARTA2025 also requires researchers to engage with society to promote the co-creation of research.

Through multi-faceted doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) training and capacity-strengthening programs, CARTA has empowered many African scholars to engage in rigorous research, contributing to scientific advancements that benefit the continent.

It aims to build a critical mass of well-trained and motivated researchers, supported by conducive environments, which can produce high-quality research to tackle the region’s common health and development challenges.

“The consortium was conceptualized to strengthen the capacity of African universities to produce well-trained and skilled researchers and scholars. The program, now spanning over a decade, is dedicated to equipping a new generation of researchers with the necessary skills and knowledge to address Africa’s most pressing challenges,” Dr. Kyobutungi explained.

The DELTAS Africa program was launched in 2015 to support collaborative African research consortia. Under Phase One (2015-2021) of the program, 11 African research consortia, including CARTA, were awarded grants.

Phase Two of the program, co-funded by the Wellcome and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and implemented by the Science for Africa (SFA) Foundation, will benefit 14 research consortia across Africa.

Dr. Alphonsus Neba Science for Africa Foundation (SFA)’s Deputy Programmes Director

Dr. Alphonsus Neba, the SFA’s Deputy Programmes Director, said: “We exist to support African scientists in addressing the continent’s most pressing developmental needs. All our programs are tactfully designed to be led by African researchers in order to develop a critical mass of able researchers on the continent.”

Elaborating on the vision of the CARTA research hubs, CARTA co-Director, Professor Sharon Fonn of the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, said: “A successful research hub is one that is doing research. But for us, what is important is that it is hosting the next generation of African researchers, providing a role model environment where research can happen and the researcher can grow…where we co-create research questions and methods and they are not being conceptualized from outside.”

Meanwhile, CARTA, which is committed to collaborating with partners across Africa to maximize the impact of its work and build a vibrant research landscape on the continent, will host its inaugural CARTA Conference on 14-15 September 2023, at the School of Public Health Auditorium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The theme of the CARTA 2023 Conference is “Building Bridges: Strengthening Research Capacity for Sustainable Development in Africa.” This theme reflects CARTA’s commitment to fostering research collaboration, innovation, and long-term impact in Africa.

CARTA 2023 will provide a platform to showcase the work and innovations of the program, the CARTA early career researchers, and partner institutions. It will also provide an opportunity to learn from its past work to inform the future.

This is a welcome move because low funding for research (including basic science) in Africa is one of the main reasons the continent is lagging behind other regions in almost all development and wealth indicators.

There is no country that has risen from being a low to high-income country without adequate investment in cutting-edge research, science, technology and innovation to spur growth and development.

The Writer is the Deputy Director of Science Africa and Director of the Africa Science Media Center.