What are your expectations of this meeting?
The event aims to highlight the importance of the partnership between Africa and the Europe in undertaking clinical trials on poverty-related diseases on the continent, but most importantly, it is about building our own capacity to conduct clinical trials. So we see the programme to be one of those that will bring us closer to solving our diseases burden. We are expecting participation by high level government representatives from Africa, Europe and Asia as well as pharmaceutical companies and foundations and philanthropic organisations. We expect these stakeholders to pledge financial support to the second phase of EDCTP.
What areas do you think needs to be strengthened in the EDCTP phase 2?
Capacity building, we are still far from bridging the capacity gap, both in terms of researchers and research facilities because of decades of under-investment in R&D. There is also a need to broaden the focus beyond TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria. We are now beginning to see a trend of the so-called rich-man’s diseases becoming more of a problem, so this may also need to be looked at. Lastly, we also need to ensure that this initiative runs in partnership with initiatives such as African Network for Drugs and Diagnostic Innovation (ANDI).
Has South Africa has achieved something during first phase of the programme?
A good number of our students have been trained and researchers have enhanced their skills. Also, 18 of our institutions that participate in this programme received over €32 million (ZAR400 million) during the first phase.
What sort of support has the South Africa’s Department of Science given to the programme?
We have been involved in ensuring that the African offices of EDCTP are situated in South Africa at the Medical Research Council in Cape Town. We also provide seed and co-investment funding to South African based researchers participating in the programme. We have an excellent relationship with both our local office and headquarters.
What do you think other Sub-Saharan countries can learn from South Africa with regards to this programme?
It is not a matter of other Sub-Saharan countries learning from South Africa but us learning from each other. Our European partners are also learning from us as Sub-Saharan Africa while we also learn from each other. The one thing though, that I think other African countries can do which has been central to our success, is to assist researchers with seed and co-investment funding.
A lot of money is spent through travel, communication, workshops, training and other critical areas in order to get research funds. As the saying goes, you spend money to make money. This is something we have been able to do for South African based researchers who approached us and it can make a difference between one getting funds and missing the boat.