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Africa-led research essential to health improvements—Lancet

Research is key to solving Africa's multiple health threats, but leadership must come from Africa and not abroad, a comprehensive Lancet review has argued.

“Most research in Africa is still conceived outside of Africa and published by non-Africans,” the report warns.

The report was compiled by The Lancet Commission, a group of prominent researchers which includes Ugandan Nelson Sewankambo, Nigerian Alex Ezeh and South Africa’s Bongani Mayosi.

The authors say that power relations in health research on Africa continues to be uneven. This is often because of vast differences in capacity and resources between Africa and international partners.

“This imbalance needs to shift. Leadership on Africa’s health, scientific, and development challenges must come from Africans, in close collaboration with the global research community,” they say.

The commission argues that diaspora scientists could help engineer a “power shift” to Africa-based scientists.

While the report praises certain African countries like South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania for establishing national health research agendas, it is concerned that half of countries don’t have a functional research system or any health research policies.

A further woe for health research in Africa is the “critical shortage of researchers” compounded by low pay for the few that exist. The paper states that African health researchers tend to spend less than two years at African institutions.

Then there is under-investment in science in general, with the report saying that African leaders are not honouring their promises to research.

“Strong leadership adapted to African countries’ realities is essential if African research institutes and universities are to become research engines contributing to national development,” they say.