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African research ‘gradually’ recovering from Covid shock


But more than two-thirds of researchers say pandemic stopped their work

A survey has found that while African research was severely impacted in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has since recovered somewhat.

The news comes a week after a global survey of 500 universities found that the pandemic has had a worse impact on research in Africa than in other regions.

The second survey was conducted by the Kenya-based Mawazo Institute, an organisation in Nairobi that aims to support early-career women researchers in Africa.

It surveyed just over 300 researchers and students based predominantly in East and Southern Africa. Most were working in the natural, health, and agricultural sciences.

Respondents reported that effects on their research were less severe in August and October 2021, when the survey was carried out, than it had been a year or six months earlier.

That suggests that “research activities are gradually returning to the levels experienced prior to the pandemic,” the survey report states

Work suspended

Most respondents had to suspend their work at one time or another during the pandemic, the survey found.
In North Africa, 86 per cent of respondents reported that their research had been disrupted, followed by Southern and East Africa (73 per cent each) and West Africa (69 per cent).

The recovery in research has not been uniform, the survey report points out. Researchers in Southern and West Africa report a faster return to field and lab research than those elsewhere on the continent.

About 40 per cent of the researchers said that the pandemic has “significantly decreased” their funding, with almost 30 per cent saying funding had “slightly decreased”. The funding knock was most pronounced in North Africa, and least in West Africa.

The report warns that research funding is an area of “pre-existing weakness in African research and higher education,” which it says is “under additional stress due to the pandemic”.