Balme Library, University of Ghana, Legon

The University of Cambridge programme supports research in Africa with 50 partner institutions across 18 countries.

It is our hope that mutually beneficial engagement between African and Cambridge researchers will further deepen and flourish over the next 10 years, with African universities taking their place among the leading academic research institutions in the world.

Professor David Dunne, Director of Cambridge Africa

The University of Cambridge celebrated the tenth anniversary of its flagship Cambridge-Africa Programme at an event held at the Fisher Building in St John’s College.

Recognising the need to support world-class research in Africa to identify African solutions to the continent’s challenges, the Programme provides fellowships to PhD or postdoctoral researchers, and matches them with Cambridge research leaders for mentorship and collaborative support.

In one of the day’s first presentations, Professor Gordon Awandare spoke of how the Programme played a crucial role in the establishment of the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), which has evolved into a centre of excellence and major hub for biomedical research and training in West Africa.

He told the audience that the importance of a centre which could attract African talent back to Africa could not be overstated: “We are engaging African scientists in the diaspora – we want to address the brain-drain and make this about brain-circulation.”

He spoke of how investment from collaborators and from the World Bank meant the centre, based at the University of Ghana, was an attractive place to work. African scientists could be confident that their facilities were as good as those in other institutions around the world, and that they could conduct the kind of globally excellent research they wanted to.

Further presentations throughout the day addressed a wide variety of research, including a study on gender-based violence in Uganda and research into the solar energy applications of graphene.

Professor Eilís Ferran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for International and Institutional Affairs, said: “We know we cannot simply parachute in with fixed solutions to what we see as uniquely African problems. Nor can we be complicit in a model of education and learning that takes some of the brightest minds away from their home countries.

“This is why the Cambridge-Africa Programme is so valuable – and why it has thrived over the past ten years: Because it relies on real partnership; because it addresses, and helps to reverse, the continent’s brain drain. Indeed it is about brain mobility.”

Professor David Dunne, Professor of Parasitology at the Department of Pathology at Cambridge and the Director of the Cambridge-Africa Programme, welcomed all those present:

“Today we will hear from young academics who will share with us their research and their vision for the future,” he told the audience.

He added that the Cambridge-Africa programme was initiated 10 years ago to help bridge the mentorship gap in Africa, which meant that new research leaders struggled to find the mentors they needed to develop in their home countries.

“Building these relationships with Africa over the last 10 years has very significantly enriched Cambridge’s own academic environment, benefiting both our students and academic researchers. It is our hope that mutually beneficial engagement between African and Cambridge researchers will further deepen and flourish over the next 10 years, with African universities taking their place among the leading academic research institutions in the world.”

Current Cambridge-Africa Initiatives & Partnerships

  • Cambridge-Africa Scholarship Scheme: 25 Cambridge Africa PhD Scholarships, funded by the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge Trust; 2015-20 (five students a year, for five years).
  • Makerere-UVRI Infection & Immunity Training Programme (MUII); Wellcome Trust and DELTAS Africa funding to Uganda; 2008-20. Building a Centre of Excellence for infection and immunity research and training in Uganda. Five PhD and four postdoctoral fellows are being mentored.
  • Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence (THRiVE); Wellcome Trust and DELTAS Africa funding to East Africa; 2009-21. THRiVE is establishing a Network of Excellence for supporting health research in a broad sense, in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Fourteen PhD and eight postdoctoral fellows have/are being mentored by Cambridge academics.
  • Cambridge-Africa Partnership for Research Excellence (CAPREx), funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Isaac Newton Trust; 2012-18. Focuses on strengthening capacity for sustainable excellence in research in the humanities, social and physical sciences, as well as technology subject areas. CAPREx is also supporting knowledge exchange partnerships and training in research management and administration in specific universities in Ghana and Uganda. Sixty-two postdoctoral researchers have been matched to Cambridge colleagues for on-going collaborations.
  • Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund, sponsored by The ALBORADA Trust; 2012-26. The Fund enables researchers from Cambridge and sub-Saharan Africa, across all disciplines, to apply jointly for grants to initiate collaborations. Funds are awarded for research reagents, fieldwork, travel between Cambridge and Africa, and the purchase of equipment. As at 2017, >150 awards have been made to joint applicants from Cambridge and their colleagues, in 18 African countries.
  • Wellcome Trust-Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research (WT-CCGHR), funded by Wellcome Trust; 2013-18. WT-CCGHR is helping to combat African and global health challenges. It capitalises on the extensive biomedical and health-related research capacity across many departments and research institutes at the University of Cambridge, as well as the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Other Key Activities/Achievements of the Cambridge-Africa Programme Include:

  • Enabling the development of Africa-related initiatives and cross-School funding applications.
  • Supporting Cambridge researchers to teach and organise relevant courses and workshops in Africa.
  • Providing video-linked, live, interactive lectures by Cambridge academics to students in Africa.
  • Creating a platform for networking and debate between African and non-African students and staff in Cambridge, and mentoring African applicants who aim to study at the University of Cambridge.

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