Strengthening Health Research Systems in Africa: A Regional Analysis
This project has explored what roles regional organisations play in strengthening Health Sciences Research (HSR) in Africa. We inventoried and mapped regional stakeholders according to evidence of their interests in HSR or STI available from websites and documents. We further interviewed 18 key informants from 15 organisations prioritised from the mapping exercise to explore how they are involved in HSR, what kind of impact they are having, and their ideas about what else regional organisations should be doing. We analysed the interview data according to the four key pillars for strengthening health research systems, and the results are presented under the same themes: governance, creating and sustaining resources, producing and using research, and financing.
Our findings show that many organisations are doing something related to supporting HSR, but those organisations with comparative advantages have mandates related to supporting HSR; expertise in health, education, or science policy fields; and strong partnerships and networks underpinning their work in this area. The pillar of financing HSR is not an area in which regional organisations are contributing much to directly, although they are all advocates for African governments to increase investment in HSR. Several gaps in activities were identified by regional organisations where they should be more involved: better coordination within and across sub-regions, strengthening infrastructure for HSR at the national or regional level, improved training and advocacy for research use, and engagement with the private industry sector and development institutions to increase financing of HSR.
Facing the opportunities and challenges for improving the structures, outputs, and innovations of health research systems, regional bodies will no doubt play important roles in strengthening HSR in Africa. This is one of the first attempts to identify and explore them in-depth. We hope that this will help contribute to future work in this area on the ways that regionalism may strengthen the development of HSR towards improving the health systems, health, and development in Africa.