COVID-19 Africa Rapid Grant Fund launched

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A COVID-19 Africa Rapid Fund Grant with an initial total funding of approximately USD4.75million, close to R90 million, is being launched to address research questions and implement science engagement activities associated with the pandemic.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) supported by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Fonds de Recherche du Québec (FRQ), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), United Kingdom Research and Innovation  (UKRI) through the Newton Fund, and SGCI participating councils are collaborating in this initiative, which has been conceptualised under the auspices of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI).

The Fund aims to support knowledge generation and translation to inform diagnostics, prevention and treatment of COVID-19, strengthen African regional and continental science engagement efforts in response to the pandemic, and leverage existing multilateral collaborations and attract new collaborations from international partners.

The COVID-19 Africa Rapid Fund Grant Fund will support projects in three areas: 1) research; 2) science engagement – call to science and health journalists and communicators; and 3) science engagement – call to science advisers in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The current pandemic has taken a significant toll on the lives and health of millions of people across the globe. Strategic partnerships and concerted efforts such 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,” says Dr Molapo Qhobela, Chief Executive Officer of the NRF, which will administer the Fund.

The research strand is informed by topics identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Grant Funding Opportunity. Funding will be provided to research projects which will investigate research areas such as prevention and control, socio-cultural dynamics of transmission, mental health and vulnerability.

Science engagement is a fundamental component linking scientific findings to translation and uptake by policymakers, and the society at large. An innovative component to this Fund entails support to science and health journalists and communicators in efforts to produce and disseminate coordinated science communication on COVID-19. Additional support for projects intended to advance science advisory activities to African governments, with a specific focus on efforts by academies of science and the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) Africa chapter will be supported.

Message from Partners:

Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Canada’s International Development Research Centre is very pleased to be collaborating with South Africa’s National Research Foundation, the 15 science granting councils involved in the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) in sub-Saharan Africa, and other international partners in the COVID-19 Africa Rapid Grant Fund. This powerful collaborative effort to support national researchers, science advisors and communicators in Africa will improve understanding of how to prevent and treat COVID-19 across the continent and internationally. – Dr Jean Lebel, President, International Development Research Centre, Canada.

Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH)

In times of crisis, as in responding to COVID-19, the degree to which existing partnerships in science, technology and innovation can be leveraged to solve a challenge that is inherently transboundary is especially critical. Fifteen science granting councils on the continent, have been working together to strengthen various aspects linked to our mandates since 2014. We have, during this time, strengthened partnerships with one another and with our development partners in the context of the SGCI. The launch of this call is a demonstration of these partnerships culminating into a multilateral effort to facilitate research and science engagement in response to COVID-19. The SGCI participating councils are delighted to join and contribute to the implementation of the activities of this Fund. – Dr Amos Nungu, Director General, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology and Chair, SGCI Councils Committee

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

The COVID-19 pandemic requires urgent action, with a response that is based on sound scientific research. Sida is proud to support this call which will not only generate new knowledge, but also make sure that science related to COVID-19 is communicated and made available to the community and policy makers. – AnnaMaria Oltorp, Head of Research Cooperation Unit, SIDA

 United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)

Coronavirus is a global crisis, which is affecting us all right now. However, by bringing together scientific research and expertise from around the world we can end this pandemic sooner for the benefit of everyone. UK aid support to the Africa Rapid Grant Fund will support African researchers to mitigate the impact of the virus across Africa. This will help stop future global waves of the infection. – James Duddridge, Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office joint Minister for Africa

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Overcoming the many challenges created by COVID-19 will only be possible if all nations have a voice. Through the UK’s funding we are delighted to support the COVID-19 Africa Rapid Grant Fund. The Fund will help to ensure researchers from across Africa are empowered to investigate the local repercussions of and responses to COVID-19 and to find solutions to the threat the pandemic presents to lives as well as livelihoods. Their findings will not only be crucial for their individual countries, but to international efforts to overcome the pandemic too. – Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI International Champion

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