The 3rd Africa Health Research and Innovation Funder’s Forum (AHRIFF) was held at Asara Wine Estate in Stellenbosch Cape Town from 24 – 26 August 2023. This is the third of the two previous Funders Forum meetings. The revolution of this meeting was influenced by a study conducted by Paruk. F. et al. 2014 entitled “National expenditure on health research in South Africa: What is the benchmark”. The first funders forum held on the 5-6 May 2022 in Cape Town’s Marriot Hotel sought to understand investments in Health Research and Innovation. The first meeting was attended by 38 attendees representing 30 funding institutions and other key stakeholders. Recommendation and outputs gathered were published. Focus of this meeting was on South African Heath Research and the meeting took place over 2 days. Key lessons learned suggested that there were more funding opportunities than what was expected and 80% of the funders could not provide granulated data. Furthermore, there is a massive duplication of project funding with different funders funding the same efforts.
The second Funders Forum was held from 20th – 22nd November 2022 at Lord Charles Hotel Somerset West, Cape Town. The meeting attracted more than 70 attendees, representing 46 funding institutions and other key stakeholders in Sub-Saharan African. This was a 3-day meeting with the last day, (day 3) meanly set aside to discuss manufacturing capabilities in Africa. The meeting concluded with participants survey which was shared electronically with all participants. The feedback received from the meeting indicated that this was an excellent meeting, two evening events provided networking opportunities for participants, the introduction of thematic area discussions was a success. This meeting suggested a larger continental meeting with smaller side meetings to discuss specific issues and multiple stakeholders were keen to be part of this establishment. The following funders were in attendance at the seconds partner’s meeting; Africa Centre for Disease Control (AFCDC) and African Union (AU), Medicine Patent Pool (MPP), Science for Africa and Grand Challenges.
The primary objective of the Funders Forum is to bring together key stakeholders, funders of health research and innovation, and implementing agencies to foster greater alignment, awareness, and transparency of programs, ultimately leading to a more significant impact.
Funders forum meetings are aimed at achieving the following:
- To promote awareness of funders’ activities in defined territories
- To promote collaboration between not-for-profit, philanthropies, Development Bank, and government departments (and minimize duplication) with respect to research and innovation investments in the respective territories.
- To provide case studies of successful programs, as well as highlight areas for improvement.
- To ensure that, where possible, funders align their investments with National/Regional priorities including investment in infrastructure.
- To ensure there is consensus on funding mechanisms for research projects including the concept of Research Fairness.
- To explore how to best build research and innovation capacity across the (Sub-Saharan) African region.
- SAMRC received a three-year grant to host funders’ forum meetings.
The meeting to discuss domestic and regional pharmaceutical in Africa including stakeholders and alignment and planning workshop took place from 28 February to 1 March 2023 at the Raddison Blue Hotel in Johannesburg, South African. This meeting was a direct flow from the November Funder’s Forum meeting. The meeting expected 20 attendees and the turnout exceeded the expectations with 50 attendees which included Funders, Product manufactures and Regulators. The resolution of this meeting resulted in the setting up of two pilot projects on Malaria and HIV. The Malaria Project will focus on Amodiaquine – Paramax and it will be led by MVV, African Union and UNITAID. The HIV project will focus on Dolutegravir, CAB-LA and it will be led by GIZ, UNITAID and USAID.
A steering committee consisting of members of the SAMRC secretarial, and members of the organizing committee has been established consisting of the following 10 members.
The number of sessions covered were outputs from the 2nd Funders Forum. Day 1 presentations gave perspective from Africa. Dr Richard Gordon (SAMRC) presented on funding perspective in Africa. Professor Glen Gray, President, South African Medical Research Council, lead the welcoming and introductions of all those present. This was followed by the presentation on “New Public Health Order for Africa” by Jean Keseya (Director General, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Lessons learned on scaling up Innovation in Africa were presented by Heather Sherwin from (ELMA Philanthropies).
The proceedings were divided into three sessions as follow:
Session 1: Moses Alobo, Science for Africa moderated a session that looked at building from a base. Leveraging existing platforms and networks in Africa. This session looked at how many funders are initiating programs in Africa and don’t understand what programs and infrastructure are already in place. As a result, new programs established often compete with these activities, and opportunities to leverage are lost. This session highlighted a number of activities and platforms that are in place that can be used as starting points for those seeking to initiate programs in Africa. This session included presentations from the following organizations: FIND, H3D, National Institute for Health and African Donor Collective.
Session 2: Carol Ruffell, GARD-P and SAHTAC member moderated a session that focused on Maternal and Neonatal and Child Health. The background of this session focused on recent Cholera and Malaria outbreaks and recently published Neonatal sepsis data in Africa. The publication of this data has again demonstrated that women and particularly children bear the brunt of the disease burden in Africa. The session looked at initiatives in Africa and provided insights into the need for those seeking to partner. Prof Mushi Matjila presented on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health priorities in Africa, Angela Dramowski provided a Neonatal Sepsis data in Africa, Sufang Guo from UNICEF provided an overview of priority areas for Africa and the session concluded by discussing the impact of Anaemia on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health. The day concluded by networking dinner hosted by SAMRC.
Day 2 Focused on Climate change and its impact on infectious disease. Dr Richard Gordon, South African Medical Research Council moderated a session designed to provide funders with an insight into challenges unique to the continent due to extreme weather events. The intersection of climate and health is fast gathering global attention. This is an opportunity for funders and stakeholders to understand the challenges and opportunities in this domain and share information about their strategies.
Faith Mangwanya, Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) helped us understand the status of “Drug manufacturing in Africa”. This was a follow up from November Funders Forum meeting, including a satellite meeting to initiate pilot projects in HIV and TB APIs in Africa. This session was a report back on activities and opportunities for funders to partner. Speakers included, Ademola Osigbesan from UNITAID who provided feedback from March meeting. This was followed by a presentation by Faith Mangwanya, GIZ, who provided an insight into HIV Program Pilot project. Pierre Hugo, Medicines for Malaria Venture, provided an update Malaria Program Pilot Project. The session concluded by a talk that focused on Natural products as a source of innovative therapeutics by Prosper Massawe from Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology.
Yared Zegiorgis, African Centres for Disease Control, moderated a session that looked at Building a vaccine Industry in Africa. The interest in building vaccine manufacturing in Africa is gaining momentum. However, the need for Africa to invest in Research and Development with supporting ecosystem as key enablers for sustainability was highlighted. This session invited panellists to discuss ongoing initiatives and activities as well as learnings from programs conducted during Covid.
Glaudina Loots, Department of Science and Innovation moderated a session that looked at “Identifying research gaps in Africa”. Glaudina emphasized the importance of funders’ understanding of what programs and platforms do exist in the Health Research and Development space, identification of these gaps and how they can be addressed. In the panel discussion, was Petro Terblanche and her talk focused on research gaps in the vaccine industry. Abebe Genetu Bayih, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) helped us understand what the gaps are relating to pre-clinical research in Africa. Jean Marie Habarugira, European Union/ EDCTP3, presented on Enablers of Sustainable Research Networks.
Day 3 concluded with “Transition to scale”. This session focused on discussing options to scale innovations in Africa. Funders talked about their experiences and discussed examples that other funders may be interested in developing. The goal was to have an open discussion where all delegates can suggest additional opportunities to take forward actions. Zoleka Ngcete, South African Medical Research Council closed the meeting with the vote of thanks. Attendees were requested to complete a survey to evaluate the session and putting together recommendations for the next Funder’s Forum meeting at the date and venue to be decided.