African scientists call for urgent investment in public health research and development  

Today, during the 4th Galien Forum Africa held in Dakar, Senegal, prominent African scientists demanded increased regional scientific cooperation and investment in healthcare research, in response to a concerning increase in misinformation on the continent.

The scientists, including Professors Awa Marie Coll-Seck and Samba Sow, are all members of the ‘African Voices of Science’ initiative, launched by Senegalese advocacy and action tank Speak Up Africa. This initiative aims to reinforce the importance of increased investment in Africa’s research and development sector while building trust in health innovation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of science, which in Africa is undermined by misinformation, increasing vaccine hesitancy and preventing the development and adoption of new tools. To build resilience, this group of scientists are calling for an increase in local investment in scientific and manufacturing capacity, the scaling-up of Africa’s digital transformation and strengthening access to public health information.

The global pandemic has also highlighted the need for greater proactivity and ownership from African governments to tackle Africa’s growing healthcare deficit and respond quickly and effectively to future health threats.

The declaration comes as 615 million Africans still lack sufficient access to quality healthcare. Africa accounts for almost half of global deaths from communicable diseases, but sub-Saharan Africa only represents around 1% of the world’s scientific output.

Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Minister of State of Senegal and Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Galien Forum Africa, stated: “With the deadline for the 2030 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals getting ever closer, it’s critical that we come together to meet this challenge, and now. Africa must invest in targeted research and development to achieve health equity, but we need our governments, civil society, researchers and businesses to take a co-ordinated approach and maximize synergies for us to reach that goal.

“By the end of 2022, technology alone will have created 133 million jobs around the world. In order to successfully transition African countries from developing to developed economies, our governments must now invest in education and in R&D, which yield a considerable return on investment,” adds Imodoye Abioro, CEO of Healthbiotics and winner of the first Young African Innovators for Health Award.  

Recognizing the importance of supporting women in developing female-led solutions, Speak Up Africa and IFPMA also launched the Women Innovators Incubator. This initiative aims to address the blatant gaps in female-led innovation and tackle the additional hurdles women face to help take their business ideas from concept to implementation.

In addition, Speak Up Africa organized two panels during the Forum Galien Africa’s Youth Forum. The first featured the three winners of the inaugural African Young Innovators for Health Awards, and the second showcasing examples of youth leadership helping to achieve sustainable change at the community level.

Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director, Speak Up Africa, said: “Now is the time to celebrate and promote existing scientific leadership within Africa and listen to the calls of our most trusted and credible professionals. The Forum Galien Africa, currently underway in Dakar, offers the perfect platform for amplifying the voice of Africa’s scientists while engaging with the next generation of future leaders.”