Africa: Invest and own your research, give it power to drive your agenda

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


With soft captivating drum beats from the amaAmbush Marinba band, spicy food and South African wine freely flowing by the poolside, the EDCTP conference kicked off yesterday evening with attendants of who-is-who players in clinical trials present.

They included African, European and international representatives from policy, industry, non-governmental organisations, product development partners and the research community.

Since this is a consultative meeting aimed at launching preparations for the second EDCTP programme, I decided to find out some of the key expectations of the attendees from this meeting.

Investing in research and owning it will give Africa the power to drive the agenda and build capacity for research.
Photo credit: EDCTP

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, in a key note welcome said she expects great things from the gathering, real progress in establishing the second phase- EDCTP2.

This marks an important step in consultations between European and African public and private stakeholders on EDCTP2, and in rising ambitious renewed support for the next phase, said Geoghegan-Quinn who is also visiting Africa for the first time.

Line Matthiessen-Guyader, the head of Unit, Infectious Diseases and Public Health, expects the conference to get more African governments into EDCTP and invest in it as well as all European countries that have capacity to be part of it. She also wants to see more public-private partnerships.

“We have the Gates Foundation but they cannot do this alone. We need stronger involvement from industries, governments and it should not be a top-down approach,” said Matthiessen-Guyader.

Salim Abdool Karim the president of the South African Medical Research Council expects more partnerships to be built out of this unique venture that he described as a ‘joint’ venture

“New drugs, treatments and research come out of partnerships. Science is collaborative and needs partnerships. The difficultly is in sustaining them,” said Karim.

Sheila Tlou, the Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa wants African countries to own the research so that it is relevant to Africa, but this should be a shared responsibility.

“If we raise our own resources then we shall move our won research agenda and we will benefit more.”

Michael Makanga the Chairman EDCTP South Africa hopes that all Africa countries increase commitment and have active participation. His wish is for of them to be like South Africa that matches the funding.

If all African countries could match the EDCTP funding in clinical trials ‘not in the sense of a euro for a euro but contribute something,” hopes Makanga. Africa would own its research, giving it power to drive the agenda and build capacity for research.

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