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IDRC Africa head expands on Strategy 2030

Image: IDRC

Kathryn Touré explains how Africa’s Agenda 2063, local relevance and Canadian strengths converge in roadmap

Canada’s International Development Research Centre launched a long-term strategy last month to guide its grantmaking. It says the strategy draws on its 50-year history and aims to create a more inclusive and sustainable world. 

Research Professional Africa chatted to Kathryn Touré, the IDRC regional director for East and Southern Africa, about the funder’s new plan—Strategy 2030—and its possible impact on African research. 

What’s new in the strategy?

The strategy’s five thematic focus areas are climate resilient food systems, democratic inclusive governance, education and science, global health, and sustainable inclusive economies. They are responsive to the African Union’s Agenda 2063, while relating to Canadian strengths and values. 

Knowing that development requires integrated approaches, we are putting an emphasis on cross-programme and intersectoral work. Gender, diversity, equity, and inclusion are also integral to the strategy. 

IDRC-funded research will integrate these issues into its design and make contributions in these areas. No research will be gender and inclusion blind. Some of the research IDRC funds will be gender and inclusion transformative, meaning that it will ask questions that get at the root causes of discrimination. 

Does the new strategy change how the IDRC works in Africa?

The strategy reaffirms our commitment to invest in high-quality research and innovation, expand sharing knowledge and mobilise meaningful alliances. We’ll invest in knowledge creation and sharing rooted in local contexts that can unlock and scale viable solutions for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the funding outlook for African researchers? 

The strategy’s programming choices are influenced by the need to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery, while addressing key knowledge gaps to reach the SDGs and address the dual challenges of climate change and inequality.

IDRC funding to African researchers remains stable. We plan to continue funding research across the continent. IDRC will deepen and expand its pool of funding partners and collaborators, including emerging funders from developing countries, and engage further with the private sector. 

Are there any upcoming calls African researchers should look out for? 

We have several calls currently open, touching on legal empowerment, artificial intelligence for climate action innovation, and research on epidemics looking at animal and human health as a whole. Several other calls are in the pipeline and will be posted on our funding page. To see the topics of calls that recently closed, click the “closed” tab at that link.

Do you have any advice for younger African scientists or institutions who are keen to collaborate with the IDRC?

Anybody may sign up for the IDRC newsletters from our Nairobi and Dakar offices and read about the innovative work of researchers working to make a difference across the continent. Most IDRC-funded research projects at universities, think tanks, and other organisations have opportunities for junior researchers to come on board and learn by doing and even complete their master’s or doctoral studies while contributing to a research project.

IDRC funds several organisations that have fellowship programmes for young scientists and early career researchers. They include the African Economic Research Consortium, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, and the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World. 

We are also funding research on how adding the “A” to “STEM” for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education and research can make these fields more attractive to women and sometimes more pertinent for society.

You also have a new logo: tell us about it.

We are excited about the new and more colourful IDRC logo, launched at the same time as Strategy 2030. The new logo defines IDRC as proudly Canadian, conveys the centre’s interconnected principles of partnership, diversity, and collaboration, and signals the wide range of research activities and creative innovations at the core of our work.

This interview has been edited for clarity.