South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) has announced the launch of a $4.75-million (about R90-million) international Covid-19 Africa Rapid Fund Grant. The purpose of the fund is to support the creation and translation of knowledge to help with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Covid-19, to reinforce regional and continental science engagement activities in Africa, and to make use of multilateral programmes and encourage new international collaborative partnerships.
“The current pandemic has taken a significant toll on the lives and health of millions of people across the globe,” highlighted NRF CEO Dr Molapo Qhobela. “Strategic partnerships and concerted efforts such [as] those leveraged here are an essential element of delivery on the mandate of science granting councils, such as the NRF, to advance, enable, support and promote scientific research and science engagement with the aim to improve the quality of lives of citizens.”
The fund will support both research and science engagement. The research aspect will see funding for Covid-19 prevention and control, sociocultural transmission dynamics, and mental health and vulnerability research projects. Selection of these themes reflects issues designated by the African Academy of Sciences, the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus Rapid Grant Funding Opportunity and the World Health Organisation.
The science engagement element will have two aspects, one directed at health and science communicators and journalists, and the other aimed at science advisers. Science engagement is hugely important because it connects scientific findings to society at large and allows their translation for, and adoption by, policymakers.
The idea for the fund was developed under the aegis of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI), which involves national science funding councils in 15 Southern, East and West African countries. While South Africa is not a member (neither is Nigeria), the fund will be administered by South Africa’s NRF.
Researchers and those engaged in science engagement from 17 African countries will be able to make applications to the fund. They are Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Four countries and seven national agencies, plus the SGCI, are working together to enable this initiative. They are South Africa’s NRF and Department of Science and Innovation, Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Canadian province Quebec’s Fonds de Recherche du Québec, Sweden’s International Development Cooperation Agency, and the UK’s Department for International Development and UK Research and Innovation (through the Newton Fund).