The ability for African researchers to conduct high-quality research is crucial for Africans to address Africa’s development challenges. Their research provides the evidence necessary for impactful policy development and the creation of appropriate evidence-based solutions. Researchers in Africa face many challenges in accessing research funding. Prof Tassew Woldehanna, President of Addis Ababa University, suggested at the 2021 conference organised by Education for Sub-Saharan Africa and the University of Cambridge, strategies to improve African researcher access to funding. These include capacity building, the creation of long-term sustainable partnerships between Universities in Africa and beyond, and African governments providing universities with more autonomy.
Researchers at various fora have also suggested that ease of access to funding should be facilitated by universities developing databases of funders. The latter should be reviewed regularly with available opportunities shared with the institutions’ researchers. Information on funding opportunities is scattered across hundreds of government agencies, foundations, universities, and compiled listings websites. Without funding opportunity databases, finding relevant opportunities is a daunting task. This is coupled with establishing one’s eligibility for the different opportunities based on country of residence.
Further, keeping these databases current, in the cases where they have been set up, has also been a challenge for African universities due to the affordability of maintaining the required personnel. Although several commercial platforms do exist, the cost of their annual subscriptions often cannot be accommodated within tight university budgets.
Utafiti Africa (‘Utafiti’ is Swahili for Research) aims to fill this gap by providing an up-to-date database of funding opportunities for African researchers. Opportunities include research grants, equipment/infrastructure grants, fellowships (Masters, PhD and Post-Doc), travel grants, among others. The database can be filtered by country of residence (to determine eligibility), discipline, and type of award.
Utafiti Africa shall also provide online video-on-demand training, for example, grant proposal writing, preparation of proposal budgets, research project management, etc. The portal shall also have news and commentary articles on the research funding landscape, specifically on areas that affect researchers in Africa. It is the first of three content-based services that UA plans to launch over the next three years in support of the Africa research and education community.
The platform shall remain free to use in 2022, after which it will become institutional subscription-based, at a fraction of the cost of current commercial providers. This year, we shall bring online additional features including saving your searches and subscribing to customised email alerts based on your country of residence and other search criteria. We welcome you to visit the site, and we wish you the best in your search for opportunities.