The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) has issued a compelling call to Africa, urging the continent to prioritize increased investment in scientific research as a vital driver for economic and social development.

This clarion call was made during a recent forum hosted by APHRC to commemorate its 20th Anniversary, where leaders and experts emphasized the urgent need for Africa to play a more significant role in the global knowledge economy.

Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, Executive Director of APHRC, highlighted the tremendous potential that increased investment in research and development (R&D) holds for Africa.

"Despite Africa being a significant source of research, its global contribution is still low. This is because of the low investment in research, which results in Africa's limited representation in the global knowledge economy,” Kyobutungi said.

“However, this presents an opportunity for Africa to make a significant leap in its social and economic development. Investments in Research and Development can create millions of jobs, generate new knowledge for decision-making, drive monetization of innovations, and elevate the place of African scientists and institutions in the global marketplace of ideas and influence.”

APHRC stressed that research products alone cannot change the world unless applied as part of evidence-based policies or program interventions.

The organization emphasized the importance of bridging policy gaps and challenges affecting the African continent, noting that research and evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) is essential for driving innovation and adaptation at all levels of decision-making.

Over the past two decades, APHRC has been at the forefront of generating evidence that has shaped policy and practice across Africa.

Notable contributions include landmark reports on various topics such as unsafe abortion, non-communicable diseases, adolescent mental health, and urban infrastructure.

As APHRC celebrates its 20th Anniversary, it aims to expand its portfolio of projects in more than 35 countries, covering key thematic areas including education, population dynamics, urbanization, human development, food systems, health, and well-being.

Looking ahead, APHRC's Data Science Program (DSP) plans to strengthen continental data systems by improving data governance and architecture, capitalizing on big data, and leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence tools.

These initiatives aim to inform priority development actions and empower African scientists to develop evidence-based solutions.

Kyobutungi emphasized the need for African leaders to prioritize the development of home-grown talent, stating, "Africa will not achieve its dream of economic and social empowerment by continuing to rely on international technical expertise. We need to develop our own scientists who will create evidence-based local solutions that can be translated into action and integrated into national decision-making processes."

To achieve this goal, APHRC is committed to catalyzing the training of Ph.D. researchers through partnerships with academic institutions.

The organization aims to nurture the next generation of African research leaders and facilitate the intergenerational transfer of skills and knowledge.

According to APHRC, Africa needs thousands of research leaders who, through an intergenerational transfer of skills and knowledge, will train the 1,000,000 scientists needed to spur the continent’s economic and social development.

By working with initiatives like the African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship (ADDRF) program and the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA), APHRC is rebuilding and strengthening the capacity of African universities to produce skilled researchers and scholars.

Under its 2022 - 2026 strategic plan, APHRC aspires to become an enabler and catalyst in Africa's R&D ecosystem. Leveraging its track record of influencing policy, an extensive network of partners, and successful doctoral training programs, APHRC aims to drive Africa's scientific development forward.

As part of its anniversary celebrations, APHRC hosted the 'Evidence to Policy Impact Symposium,' which addressed challenges hindering effective public policy engagement and decision-making in tackling health development challenges across African countries.

This symposium served as a platform for dialogue and collaboration, with the aim of charting a course towards evidence-based policies that can transform lives across the continent.