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R43-million boost for public health training and research in Africa

posted Apr 1, 2011, 8:59 AM by CARTA Administrator   [ updated Apr 1, 2011, 8:59 AM ]

The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA), a joint initiative of the Wits School of Public Health and the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Nairobi, has been awarded a ₤3.2-million (R42,766,379) grant from the Wellcome Trust, the largest charity in the United Kingdom.

CARTA was launched on Monday, 20 July 2009 at Wits University. Prof. Loyiso Nongxa, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University said that the CARTA programme is in line with Wits' 2010 vision and at the same time is expanding Wits' footprint in Africa. He added that CARTA is distinct for its focus on 'second-generation' or complimentary partnerships. "CARTA presents a model of what is possible when academia and leadership work together to produce a distinctive programme that has far-reaching benefits for the continent," said Nongxa. "It will also go a long way to address issues around academic and intellectual isolation."

The grant kick-started CARTA's vision to develop the capacity of African universities to produce globally competitive graduates who will lead research to improve health and development in Africa. Africa carries a disproportionate illness burden and is the focus of many research questions. Yet research output in this area remains at just 0.3% of the world's total research output. CARTA is an initiative of 10 African universities, four African research institutes and a number of northern partners.

Dr Alex Ezeh, APHRC's Executive Director believes that CARTA will greatly improve research capacity in the region. "Research capacity is inadequate in Africa and existing research capacity strengthening programmes and collaborative partnerships in Africa are largely driven by northern academic and research institutions. The launch of CARTA will greatly assist the African agenda," says Ezeh. "The Wellcome Trust grant of $3.2M will put us on the path to realising the CARTA dream but we still need significantly more resources to revolutionise doctoral training in African universities."

Prof. Sharon Fonn from the Wits School of Public Health and Deputy Director of CARTA considers that the careful partnerships built through this consortium recognises that no African university can do this alone and that the northern partners who have joined are committed to developing African capacity in Africa rather than using Africa as a research site for their own publication output. "Not only are we aiming to produce a critical mass of highly-skilled, locally-trained scholars and developing multidisciplinary research hubs at African universities but more importantly, we are refocusing research attention to improve wellbeing in Africa," comments Fonn.

CARTA aims to address the dearth of African scientists engaged in research on the continent by building and retaining a vibrant African academy able to lead world-class multidisciplinary research that impacts positively on public and population health, produces networks of locally-trained, internationally recognised researchers and scholars and enhances the capacity of African universities to lead and manage globally competitive research and training programmes.

CARTA will achieve this through a model doctoral training programme with strong supervision and mentoring, and by strengthening research infrastructure and capacity at African institutions.