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EDCTP: A 20-year track record of supporting excellent, equitable research in Africa

By guest contributors Pauline Beattie, Catherine Hankins, and Michael Makanga on behalf of the EDCTP Association

While we welcome encouragement to funders by Charani et al [1] to tackle inequities in global health research and proposed metrics to track progress, this is not a new approach to funding. The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), established in 2003, has been successfully supporting equitable European-African research collaborations to develop new and improved interventions against infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa for almost two decades.

All aspects of the EDCTP programme (EDCTP2, 2014-2024) aim for equitable research and capacity development partnerships. EDCTP operates as a ‘partnership of equals’ between North and South. African partners are involved at all levels, including priority setting, strategy development, implementation of plans, evaluation procedures and leadership. This contributes to a true sense of co-ownership and political commitment, increasing the likelihood that research results influence policy and practice. EDCTP has been tracking its progress in supporting equitable research, using many of metrics proposed in this article.

Figure 1: EDCTP Portfolio (2014-2022) . Credit: EDCTP, http://www.edctp.org/publication/edctp-summary-of-achievements-2014-2021/

The EDCTP2 governing body, the General Assembly, comprises 18 African and 14 European representatives. The membership of its Scientific Advisory Committee is 40% African. Peer review and research oversight procedures include African experts evaluating research conducted in Africa, with more than half of individual proposal evaluations (2014-2021) undertaken by African researchers. Proposal evaluation incorporates specific criteria to assess equity such as ‘involvement of sub-Saharan African researchers in the scientific leadership of the project’ and ‘contribution to strengthening capacity’. EDCTP2 is supporting 435 collaborative research, fellowship, and capacity strengthening projects (figure 1), with a total budget of 814 million euros involving 19 European and 44 African countries (figure 2). The majority of funding (489M euros; 60%) is allocated to Africa, spread across 310 African institutions. 

Figure 2: Country participation in EDCTP projects (2014-2022). Credit: EDCTP, http://www.edctp.org/publication/edctp-summary-of-achievements-2014-2021/

Alongside EDCTP’s main objective to support excellent research to accelerate development of interventions against poverty-related diseases, the partnership supports research capacity strengthening at individual, institutional, national and sub-regional levels in Africa. Beyond individual training and career fellowships and capacity building grants, strengthening research capacity is an integral component of all large research grants. More than 500 postgraduate students across Africa are supported on EDCTP projects, alongside 200 post-doctoral research fellows.

Through partnering with regional organisations, EDCTP ensures that its funding addresses local priorities and needs through African leadership. An example is the joint EDCTP and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) programme to train African 150 epidemiologists and biostatisticians to increase the continent’s leadership and capacity to respond to disease emergencies.

Whilst encouraging research partnerships across Africa and Europe that move beyond historical, colonial North-South networks, EDCTP is also one of the few funders supporting sustainable South-South research collaborations, such as EDCTP regional networks of excellence in Africa.

EDCTP has demonstrated that high-quality, fair, and equitable research in Africa can be achieved, and that collaborative research has high impact. We commend the authors for highlighting the inequities in the systems that support global health research and we echo the call to funders to join the conversation on equity in global health research.

About the authors:

Dr Pauline Beattie is the EDCTP Operations Manager. She is responsible for the management and oversight of the EDCTP project portfolio from development of calls for proposals, management of peer review, through to monitoring and evaluation of projects.  Before joining EDCTP in 2011, she was a Science Portfolio Manager in Infection and Immunity at Wellcome Trust, UK. Dr Beattie has a Bachelors, Masters and DPhil in Parasitology, with particular interests in malaria and neglected infectious diseases.

Professor Catherine Hankins MD PhD FRCPC is Chairperson of EDCTP’s Scientific Advisory Committee; Senior Fellow, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development; Professor and incoming Interim Chair, Department of Public and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University; and Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She co-chairs Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. In 2002 she became the first Chief Scientific Adviser to UNAIDS, leading for ten years the scientific knowledge translation team focusing on ethical and participatory HIV prevention trial conduct, convening mathematical modelling teams, and supporting country implementation of proven biomedical HIV prevention modalities. From 2014 to 2020, she was the Scientific Chair of six INTEREST conferences held annually in diverse African countries http://interestworkshop.org/. A trustee of the HIV Research Trust and member of the International AIDS Society Industry Liaison Forum, she was named to the Order of Canada in 2013.

Dr Michael Makanga, MD PhD FRCP(Edin) is the EDCTP Executive Director. He is a clinician-scientist with 25 years of professional experience working on health and poverty-related diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Before joining EDCTP he was first in clinical practice and academia, and later clinical research where he served as Head of Regulatory Clinical Trials Facility and Outpatient Clinic at the Kenya Medical Research Institute – Wellcome Trust Collaborative Centre, Kilifi, Kenya, under the auspices of the United Kingdom Universities of Liverpool and Oxford. Dr Makanga has served in various scientific and policy advisory boards for international product development and philanthropic organisations along with pharmaceutical companies involved in developing medicinal products for poverty-related infectious diseases.

Follow EDCTP on Twitter at @edctp

Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.


[1] Charani E, Abimbola S, Pai M, Adeyi O, Mendelson M, Laxminarayan R, et al. (2022) Funders: The missing link in equitable global health research? PLOS Glob Public Health 2(6): e0000583. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pgph.0000583

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