Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation
Between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe

Bi-regional STI Networks

EU-Africa research and innovation partnerships at work

Challenges and Opportunities in the EU-Africa Health Research and Innovation Cooperation Environment

Challenges and Opportunities in the EU-Africa Health Research and Innovation Cooperation Environment

The need for effective health research and innovation cooperation between nations and regions, but also between sectors, has been highlighted in the context of the Ebola crisis. GERARD RALPHS of *Research Africa spoke to two CAAST-Net Plus representatives, NAJIA MUSOLINO and KATHARINA KUSS, about the project’s work to advance this bi-regional, inter-sectoral partnership.

Questions: Gerard Ralphs
Answers: Katharina Kuss, Najia Musolino

What are some of the current priority areas of health research and innovation cooperation between Africa and Europe?

A key priority in health research cooperation between Africa and Europe is to channel efforts and funds to capacity building, transfer of knowledge, and skills development for research on neglected and infectious diseases in Africa. Another priority area is tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs): according to the World Health Organization, pathologies such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases will account for 46% of mortality and nearly 40% of the disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. Gaps need to be filled in the sphere of research for drug development to support health development priorities in Africa. Among the many lessons we are learning from the current Ebola crisis is that there is still a strong need to prioritise a health research agenda and clinical plans that are aligned with the public health challenges faced locally in Africa.

Cooperation in innovation between the two continents is also a must. Innovation in health care is not just about the development of sophisticated technology for diagnosis and treatment. It is also about smarter and cost-efficient means of health service delivery to local populations, keeping in mind the social determinants of health.

CAAST-Net Plus is especially interested in building bridges between public and private sector actors for better health outcomes that meet the needs of citizens in both regions. In what ways is CAAST-Net Plus helping to realise this ambition?

CAAST-Net Plus partners have been working together intensively to discover how to bridge the public-private sector divide in order to deliver greater impact on health outcomes. Over the past six months we have hosted three workshops in Germany, Gaborone and South Africa during which we have gathered key public and private actors to help us to think through this important issue. A key task, moving forward, is to produce a consolidated report documenting findings from these consultations. The ultimate aim of this synthesis report will be to inform policy-makers about the barriers to and niche opportunities for involvement of the private sector in health research.

The European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership launched its second phase in South Africa during December 2014. How are CAAST-Net Plus and EDCTP working together?

Our joint interest in bridging the public-private sector divide led to an EDCTP and CAAST-Net Plus joint session at the Seventh EDCTP Forum in Berlin earlier this year. However, the mandate of CAAST-Net Plus goes beyond poverty-related and neglected diseases. We aim to identify new niches to enhance EU-Africa health research cooperation and these aspects are discussed with our stakeholders at workshops, such as the satellite event to the EDCTP launch conference that took place in Cape Town in December 2014. The Executive Director of EDCTP, Prof. Charles Mgone, is a member of the CAAST-Net Plus external advisory committee, which provides an important opportunity for synergy.

The Council on Health Research for Development, a CAAST-Net Plus partner, recently launched its Africa Office. Tell our readers about the genesis and objectives of COHRED Africa.

With over twenty years of hands-on experience in developing tools and delivering support to maximise the impact of research and innovation on the health and development of LMIC populations, COHRED has recognised the rising importance that LMICs give to investing and building their own research systems and capacities. Within this context, we have decentralised COHRED’s growth out of Geneva and launched COHRED Africa in Botswana on 6 -7 November 2014 as a related independent, non-profit organisation. COHRED Africa will implement COHRED’s programmes in Africa, in particular its technical support to governments and the private sector in research and innovation for health.

Dr Najia Musolino is Senior Specialist, Global Action at the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED).

Katharina Kuss is EU Project Manager at the Foundation for International Cooperation, Health and Social Affairs (FCSAI)

This article first appeared in the CAAST-Net Plus Magazine of December 2014.

[Image credit: Flickr, T. Lupic]

This content was produced by *Research Africa for CAAST-Net Plus. To report an error, write to To learn more about us, go to ​

Disclaimer: CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n0 311806. This document reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement 311806
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