Funding and COVID-19 research in Africa: two years on, are the research needs of Africa being met?
Antonio E., Alobo M., Bayona MT., Marsh K., Ariana P., Norton A.
Background: The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused significantly lower reported mortalities on the African continent as compared to other regions. Yet, many countries on the continent are still contending with the devastating economic, social and indirect health impacts. African researchers and policy makers have identified research priority areas which take cognisance of the unique research needs of African countries. A baseline assessment of the alignment of funded research in Africa to these priorities and World Health Organization’s COVID-19 research priorities was undertaken in July, 2020. We present a two-year update to this analysis of funded COVID-19 research in Africa. Methods: Data captured in the UK Collaborative on Development Research and Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness COVID-19 Research Project Tracker as of 15th July, 2022 was analysed. An additional analysis of institutions receiving funding for COVID-19 research is presented. We also analysed the change in funding for COVID-19 research in Africa since July, 2020. Results: The limited COVID-19 research identified in Africa early in the pandemic has persisted over the subsequent two-year period assessed. When number of projects are considered, governmental funders based in Europe and United States supported the most research. Only nine research funders based in Africa were identified. A number of partnerships between African institutions and institutions based on other continents were identified, however, most research projects were undertaken in research institutions based in Africa only. Our findings highlight the relevance of the WHO research priorities for the pandemic response in Africa. Many research questions raised by African researchers remain unaddressed, among which are questions related to clinical management of COVID-19 infections in Africa. Conclusions: Two years after the identification of Africa’s COVID-19 research priorities, the findings suggest a missed opportunity in new research funding to answer pertinent questions for the pandemic response in Africa.