Geographies in Depth

How can Africa tackle diseases affecting its populations?

Katy Migiro
East Africa correspondent, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Africa is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of Global Health and Healthcare

NAIROBI, Sept 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An African research fund launched in Kenya on Thursday aims to raise the quality of Africa’s scientific output and tackle diseases primarily affecting the world’s poorest continent, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and Ebola.

The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), based at the African Academy of Sciences in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, aims to draw increased funding from the West and African governments to set up centres of scientific excellence on the continent.

“What AESA hopes to achieve is to look at the major diseases that are already epidemics, the neglected tropical diseases… and the emerging challenges like Ebola and really build the capacities to try and deal with these challenges,” AESA Director Tom Kariuki told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We want good scientists trained and retained on the continent, and rewarded to do the work that they do.”

Africa has the smallest number of scientists per capita of any continent as professionals often move abroad to further their careers, Kariuki said.

Scientists funded by AESA will work towards creating new vaccines, products and services for diseases that primarily affect Africans, he said.

When the 2014 Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa, donors launched an emergency appeal for research aimed at managing the deadly virus better. Potential vaccines moved from the laboratory to the field in record time.

“It is first and foremost our responsibility as African scientists, as African governments, to actually make sure we are prepared for these sort of emergencies,” said Kariuki.

AESA announced a grant of $70 million to support seven African researchers working on issues such as mental health in Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in South Africa and malaria in Mali.

The World Health Organization has called on countries which are home to 17 priority neglected tropical diseases, such as sleeping sickness, rabies and bilharzia, affecting 1.5 billion people worldwide, to invest more in overcoming them.

All the diseases are hard to diagnose and have few drugs available for treatment, and there is no vaccine for any of them, Kariuki said.

Africa accounts for 15 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its disease burden, but produces only two percent of the world’s research, according to the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest medical charities.

The Trust provided seed money for AESA, along with the Gates Foundation and the British government.

The fund is asking African governments to invest one percent of GDP in scientific work.

(Reporting by Katy Migiro, editing by Tim Pearece. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change)

This article is published in collaboration with Trust. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Katy Migiro is an East Africa correspondent for Thomson Reuters. 

Image: Health workers put on protective gear before entering a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in Eastern Sierra Leone. REUTERS/Baz Ratner. 

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Asia-Pacific: How the region is prioritizing a green economy

Kanni Wignaraja and Debora Comini

June 10, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum