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Research capacity strengthening in Africa: Trends, gaps and opportunities

Research reports

Written by Nicola Jones

This report aims to provide an overview of donor support for research capacity building in Africa so as to inform the International Forum of Research Donors for Development (IFORD) and especially the Department for International Development (DFID)’s thinking about the value-added role they can respectively have in this environment, either as individual institutions or in partnership with other donors. In the case of DFID, the report is also designed to inform the Central Research Department’s thinking around the role of capacity building in its next five-year research strategy and 20-year Vision of development for poverty reduction.

The study included a desktop/web review of grey and published literature, a systematic review of existing evaluation documents and key informant interviews with donors, intermediary organisations and African institutions that receive support. The objectives of the study were to: i) identify the leading donors in the field of research capacity strengthening; ii) identify the level and modalities of support; iii) identify possible areas of duplication and omission in terms of thematic/disciplinary and geographic coverage; iv) suggest where DFID (and other donors) can add value; and v) identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership with which DFID can engage. Outputs include answers to these questions (summarised below), an annotated bibliography on research capacity strengthening approaches and experiences and a series of databases containing detailed information about research capacity building approaches supported by different types of donors, estimated donor spending levels, programme coverage (themes, geographical focus, phase in the knowledge generation and knowledge translation cycle) and evaluation findings.

A mapping of donors that support research capacity building in Africa revealed a wide range of capacity building initiatives covering the whole continent and a broad range of disciplines and themes. Estimating the amounts that donors invest in research capacity building is difficult for a number of reasons. However, the illustrative figures that the report provides show that the overall proportion of dedicated spending for research capacity building is relatively low.

Nicola Jones, Mark Bailey and Minna Lyytikäinen