Their roles vary from country to country but generally include the following:
- disbursing grants for research
- fostering development and innovation
- building research capacity through scholarships and bursaries
- setting and monitoring research agendas and priorities
- issuing research permits
- formulating/revising national STI policies
- providing policy advice to governments
- managing bilateral/multilateral STI agreements
- monitoring and assessing the impacts of publicly funded research as well as research funded from other sources.
However, science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa face a number of interrelated challenges, including limited capacity, inadequate funding, overlapping roles and poor coordination with other agencies, lack of appropriate legislation and weak implementation of science and research funding policies.
Responding to these challenges, the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) in sub-Saharan Africa is focused on strengthening the capacities of councils in order to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development in sub-Saharan Africa.
The SGCI is a multi-funder initiative supported by IDRC, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, South Africa’s National Research Foundation and the German Research Foundation. Participating African councils also contribute resources to the initiative.
Since its inception in 2015, SGCI has been strengthening the ability of participating councils to:
- manage research
- design and monitor research programs
- formulate and implement policies based on the use of evidence
- manage research competitions for development impact
- build networks among councils and with other science system actors
Three cross-cutting dimensions, namely research excellence, gender equality and inclusivity, as well as strategic communications and research uptake are integrated throughout the initiative.
Capacity strengthening and technical support to the councils are expected to lead to:
- more effective research-management practices
- strengthened ability of councils to design and monitor research programs to formulate and implement policies based on the use of evidence
- increased ability of councils to manage research competitions
- increasingly coordinated and networked councils.
More effective science granting councils are expected to strengthen national science, technology and innovation systems and ultimately lead to nationally led research that contributes to development in participating countries.
The 16 participating countries are: Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia in East Africa; Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana in West Africa; and Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.