SGCI Plays motivational, capacity building role among Ethiopian researchers

By Mekonnen Teshome

ADDIS ABABA – Research experts say that the sub-Saharan Africa’s Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) has played a motivational and capacity building role among Ethiopian researchers and it should be carried out in a more sustainable manner.

Selamyhun Adefris, Director General for Research and Innovation at the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology, told Science Africa reporter that SGCI has motivated Ethiopian researchers especially in Universities and it needs systemic and sustainable maintenance.

Selamyhun, who is also Ethiopia’s SGCI focal person, indicated that SGCI’s networking in Ethiopia has to focus on realizing institutionalization of research activities through building research infrastructures and laboratories, creating an enabling environment, designing related policies and strategies.



According to the director, taking part in the SGCI would definitely lay a foundation for a well-coordinated research management competence and skills among the Ethiopian research and development community.

Reaffirming Ethiopia’s commitment in collaborating and engaging in the SGCI regional initiatives and skills building efforts, Mr. Selamyhun called on for further support especially in his country’s plan of institutionalizing research and development activities at the national level.

As to the Director, his Ministry has involved the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences to devise a national research strategy and currently the conceptual framework is being developed for the same purpose.

He is confident that the strengthening the Science and Innovation Council in Ethiopia and SGCI’s partnership and assistance would facilitate robust research activities.

Dr. Solomon Benor, Director General for Science and Research Affairs at the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, who is also a Plant Biotechnologist, says that he was one of the researchers who have done a successful research project, funded by SGCI Ethiopia, on Environmental Pollution published in 2017 titled: “Phytoremediation of Industrial Wastes and Generation of Commercial Products from Recycled Plant Biomasses”∙

According to Dr. Solomon, his participation in the research project supported by the Science, Technology, and Innovation Research Council, Ethiopia, has been a great inspiration to him and to all the participating fellows and he has suggested that the initiative need to be further strengthened.

“Initiatives like SGCI would have significant impact if they are aligned with establishment and strengthening of a ‘National Research Council’ as an Institution headed by researchers themselves, organized procurement system and generally a holistic research system in Ethiopia. Now our national research activities are led by a research committee not a National Council, so, we need to establish a council that gives organized and sustained leadership.”

The comprehensive: “Assessing the needs of the research system in Ethiopia. Report for the SRIA program”, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), corroborates with Dr. Solomon’s assertion.

It states that the Needs Assessment has indicated that Ethiopia receives considerably less financial support for research compared to other Low- medium-income countries (LMICs).

“Organization-level interventions will be arguably more impactful in Ethiopia than they would be in more advanced LMICs. The rapid growth in the number of universities and the number of students creates both challenges and opportunities for Research capacity strengthening (RCS,” he said.

“We recommend that priority be given to collaborations with established universities that are already engaged in research, with a view to creating national role models for research production and management,” the underscores.

Therefore, according to Dr. Solomon, the very priority of research partnership in Ethiopia needs to be putting the right systems and originations in place and international actors including SGCI should first focus on these basic issues.

Former Director General of Innovation Development and Research Affairs, Ministry of Innovation and Technology Dr Abraham Debebe Woldeyohannes also recalled that Ethiopia has benefited from the COVID-19 Africa Rapid Fund Grant Fund which was conceptualized under the auspices of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) as it was announced in October 2020.

According to him, the main objective of the research fund was to support knowledge generation and translation to inform diagnostics, prevention and treatment of COVID-19, strengthen African regional and continental science engagement efforts in response to the pandemic, and leverage existing multilateral collaborations and attract new collaborations from international partners.

The basic focus of the project were mainly research, science engagement ( call to science and health journalists and communicators) and calling science advisers in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and Ethiopian fellow researchers and communicators successfully played their part in participating in this effort, he said.



The Ethiopian scientists were very appreciative of the involvement of health journalists and communicator from across sub-Saharan African countries in this initiative of SGCI ,apart from science advisors and researchers, who were coordinated and guided by Science Africa (SA), a publishing, communications, advocacy, research and mentorship thinktank and consultancy organization, based in Kenya Nairobi.

As to the Ethiopian SGCI participating fellows, SGCI is one of the opportunities provided to researchers in sub-Saharan Africa where capacities related to research funds and systemic organization is very low.

To this end, the DFID funded Report for the SRIA Program also has indicated the government has indicated a desire to attract international research funding to support its development plan, and fund providers will have some leverage on a fast-growing but cash-strapped country.

“Collaborations with the government should build on the national development priorities identified by the government and seek to fit within current strategies for research and technology transfer,” the director added.

Therefore, this time around SGCI is expected to contribute to basically bring about strong research organizational structure in Ethiopia as part of its effort made to enhance and strengthen the skills and capacity in research management of Councils in the 15 participating sub-Saharan countries.

The Science Granting Councils Initiative is an Initiative which aims to strengthen the capacities of Science Granting Councils (SGCs) in sub-Saharan Africa in order to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development.

 

 

Featured Image caption: Selamyhun Adefris, Director General for Research and Innovation at the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology.

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