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Press Release: The O.R. Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative

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Monday 12 October 2020, 12:00 GMT

The O.R. Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative: Meet the team aiming to contribute to transforming the African research landscape

Pretoria, South Africa: The O.R. Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative (ORTARChI) is pleased to announce that it has selected the Initiative’s first ten host institutions and individual research Chairholders. ORTARChI is an initiative of South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), in partnership with the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation (OATF), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and seven councils of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI).

“For the next five years, the Chairs at these public universities in seven countries across the African continent will conduct research and support high-end skills development on a diverse range of topics including climate, public health, entrepreneurship and youth employment. Aligned to the global concept of research Chairs, these world-class researchers will not only lead multidisciplinary research teams, but also train the next generation of researchers,”said Dr. Molapo Qhobela, Chief Executive Officer, NRF.

ORTARChI provides five years of funding amounting to approximately US$15million, granted after a rigorous review process and in recognition of institutional excellence and capacity in identified disciplines; commitment to supporting high-quality research leadership; and talent; as well as to individual, internationally-recognised researchers.

In addition to the support provided through the grant for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, funds will be provided by the NRF and the OATF for 55 African female doctoral students studying under the supervision of the respective Chairholders.“Through international and regional strategic partnerships, the Chairs will contribute to the development of long-term, mutually beneficial, research collaboration on the African Continent,” said Dr Jean Lebel, President, IDRC.

The Initiative

This initiative builds on the work of Oliver Tambo, a prominent South African and pan-Africanist with a science education background, who believed in creating change through education and in cooperation and solidarity among African nations.

“This is an important new chapter in the ORTARChI story. The initiative was first announced in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important leaders of South Africa’s liberation struggle, O.R. Tambo, who led the African National Congress during the years of exile. Tambo was not only a committed pan-Africanist but also an advocate of science and technology,” said Zengeziwe Msimang, Chief Executive Officer, OATF.

The ORTARChI is an opportunity to promote the values for which O.R. Tambo stood. These values include integrity, courage of conviction, diplomacy and humility. The initiative also recognises African excellence in the fields of study about which he was so passionate. Tambo not only believed in Africa as a centre for excellence, but also that it was and would continue to be the home of innovation and brilliance.

“Building on this legacy of O.R Tambo, ORTARChI will enhance the higher education system, promoting research and development in Africa. Of significance is the Initiative’s contribution to the development of mutually beneficial medium and long term partnerships between and amongst countries within and beyond Africa. As a collective, the Research Chairs will also leverage partnerships with the civil society, private sector, and government, a highly commendable approach to implementing excellent research,” added Prof VitóriaLanga de Jesus, Executive Director of Mozambique’s National Research Fund (FNI).

Media Invitation

Members of the media and the public are invited to the official launch of the Chairs on 27 October, as part of the 2020 Tambo Month Celebrations. The virtual event will be a panel discussion led by South Africa’s Minister of Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande and will be held on what would have been O.R. Tambo’s 103rd birthday.

Details of the O.R. Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative Launch:

Date: Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Time: 14:30 – 16:30 SAST (12:30 – 14:30 GMT)

To register for the event, please go to: http://nrf.ac.za/or_tambo_africa_research_chairs_initiative_launch

The Research Chairs

Below is the full list of the 10 research Chairholders and host institutions:

Research ChairholderInstitution and CountryThematic AreaResearch Focus of Chair
Prof Gizaw Mengistu TsiduBotswana International University of Science & Technology, BotswanaClimate ChangeClimate change and adaptation in water, vegetation and livestock resources
Prof Almeida SitoeEduardo Mondlane University, MozambiqueClimate ChangeEcosystems for arid and semi-arid zones
Prof Olga Lompo and Dr Samiratou OuedraogoUniversité Joseph KI- ZERBO, Burkina FasoHealth SciencesCancer and public health
Prof  Kwesi Firibu SaaliaUniversity of GhanaFood SecurityFood safety and quality
Prof Nathaniel BosoKwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, GhanaHumanities and Social SciencesEntrepreneurship and youth employment
Prof Gerald MisinzoSokoine University of Agriculture, TanzaniaFood SecurityLivestock health
Prof Noble BanaddaMakerere University, UgandaFood SecuritySustainable agriculture
Prof Stephen SyampunganiCopperbelt University, ZambiaEnvironment and DevelopmentEnvironmental management
Prof Imasiku NyambeUniversity of ZambiaWater ResearchWater quality and catchment protection
Prof Hulda SwaiNelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, TanzaniaNanotechnologyAnti-malarial drug delivery

Please see below for the full Media Release

Research

The 2020 COVID-19 Non-Pharmaceutical Containment Measures – Adherence and Impact on Livelihoods in Rural Uganda

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Graphs from the survey report showing the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on household income for Rural and Peri-Urban settings. By Dr. Dan Kajungu and MUCHAP/IMHDSS Team.

By Dr. Dan Kajungu and MUCHAP/IMHDSS Team

Uganda is currently experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with an upsurge of cases. The country registered an 81% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases between March and April 2021, which indicates resurgence or another wave in the pandemic. From 200 cases per day in April, now the country is recording over 500 cases per day. The vaccines uptake has improved only recently, and the population has ignored the Ministry of Health (MoH) Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) meant to contain transmission. Since March 2021, when the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine was introduced, about 541,569 persons have so far been vaccinated.

On 6th June, new control measures were announced to mitigate the transmission. The Makerere University Centre for Health and Population Research (MUCHAP) which runs a longitudinal population-based cohort of Iganga and Mayuge districts (Iganga Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site) conducted a community survey to understand how citizens responded to the non-pharmaceutical interventional measures, and the impact on their livelihood. This survey was part of the routine community surveys that a typical health and demographic surveillance site conducts to understand the population dynamics in population cohorts. The hybrid survey involved about 2,000 households in rural and peri-urban settings using a questionnaire that adopted some questions from the Wellcome Trust COVID-19 tool. It was a hybrid of on-phone and physical interviews conducted between July and August 2020 right after the relaxation of restriction in Uganda. Community based surveys provide information on what to expect when piloting and implementing interventions in populations. In addition to the demographic and household characteristics, questions sought to understand the extent of community adherence to COVID-19 control measures and probed about the impact on socio-economic and access to health services.

Adherence to preventive measures: The survey found that 94% of the respondents adhered to COVID-19 non-medical control measures that were enforceable by security personnel. It was different for non-pharmaceutical measures that were largely dependent on individual enforcement or discipline and this averaged at 43% of the respondents. Six in ten respondents reported doing most of their work from home and half (50%) avoided seeking medical care at health facilities during lockdown.

The non-pharmaceutical guidelines included using preventive actions like social-distancing, hand washing with soap, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels as well as wearing of face masks. Citizens were encouraged to stay at home with the exception of essential workers who rendered critical services. Some community members could not adhere, not because they do not take it as a priority but because of the cost implications.

Socio-economic impact: There was change in the living arrangement in 12% of the households mostly because someone moved out or into the household. Community members reported a reduction (64%) in the income for household members with some experiencing a complete stop in earnings (6%). Residents in rural settings reported more reduction in income compared to Peri-urban residents (78% vs 74%). There are seemingly unique circumstances that need to be considered as interventions and decisions are made. For instance, it should not be surprising that a household cannot afford to have a bar of soap, a face mask, an alcohol-based hand sanitizing gel and social distance because of the living structures. In some cases, even accessing water is a luxury for some homes. There are some homesteads that are unable to grow food or earn an income from selling cash crops because they leased their pieces of land for large scale sugarcane growing 3 or 4 years ago, with just a house and a few feet of compound to spare. Unfortunately, such individuals have no access to social media where they can express their predicament.

The survey further found out that during the 2020 lockdown period, there was a general increase in violence against men, children, and women. There were cases of child neglect as well as marital problems. The survey found that 53% of the respondents reported increase in marital problems, while violence against women during the lockdown was reported by 51% of the respondents and was more common among rural residents compared to their Peri-urban counterparts. Residents could not access what they considered essential needs like transport and education services, which were directly affected by government directives and other community services. Communication was the most affected essential service reported.

Access to Health Services: 26% of the interviewed community members who were on daily medication due to a chronic or long-term condition reported running out of drugs during lockdown. Non-affordability due to the cost was the main reason in 54% of respondents, while 19% reported cases of stock-outs at both public and private health facilities and 10% were restricted by lockdown measures.

In another review of the immunisation records at Busowubi Health Centre III in Iganga district, it was clear that during the lockdown, utilisation of immunization services was severely affected (manuscript is undergoing peer review). Children did not complete their scheduled vaccine doses which calls for catch up vaccination drives. People could not go to health facilities because of fear of acquiring infection and restricted movements of boda-boda.

Please see Downloads for the detailed report.

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Artificial Intelligence Capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa – Compendium Report

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Artificial Intelligence Capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa – Compendium Report, January 2021

Makerere University in Uganda formed the AI & Data Science Research Group, which examines various areas related to AI and data science such as ML methods, computer vision and predictive analytics. The group has conducted research on automated diagnosis of crop and human diseases, auction design for mobile commodity markets, analysis of traffic patterns in African cities, and the use of telecoms and remote sensing data for anticipating the spread of infectious disease, to name a few.

Institution-specific research groups and activities

Robotics and Autonomous Intelligence

  • The Robotics, Autonomous Intelligence and Learning (RAIL) Laboratory (Wits);
  • Wits Institute of Data Science (WIDS) (Wits);
  • Computational Intelligence Research Group (UP);
  • Automating Robot Design for General Applications (University of Cape Town) (UCT);
  • Guided Self-Organisation in Artificial Complex Systems (UCT); and
  • Spatiotemporal models for Biosurveillance (Makerere).

Health and Biology

  • Machine Learning for Cancer Detection (NUL);
  • Nature Inspired Computing Optimisation Group (NICOG) (UP);
  • Prediction of Co-infection of TB and HIV using Computational Intelligence Methodologies (UniSwa);
  • An Expert System for Malaria Diagnosis Using Fuzzy Cognitive Map Engine (Best Paper Award) IEEE-IST Africa Botswana (UniSwa);
  • Multi-Target Regression Prediction on Cervical Cancer for evaluation of Performance Measures (UniSwa);
  • A Framework for Early di!erential diagnosis of tropical confusable diseases using the fuzzy cognitive map engine (UniSwa); and
  • Machine learning-based detector for cervical cancer (Makerere).

Agriculture and Disaster management

  • Early Warning System for Disaster Preparedness (MUST);
  • Forecasting crops using drones (UWC);
  • WineTech (UWC);
  • Disease surveillance – mobile monitoring of crop disease (Makerere);
  • Automated Malaria diagnosis (Makerere);
  • Computational prediction of famine (Makerere);
  • Auction design for agricultural commodity trading (Makerere); and
  • A portable deep-learning-based diagnostic platform for passion fruit diseases (Makerere).

Click here to access the full report

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Seed Grant for New African Principal Investigators (SG-NAPI)

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The Chancellor-Prof. Ezra Suruma (Right) confers a PhD upon MakSPH's Mr. Godfrey Bwire during Day 1 of the 70th Graduation Ceremony, 14th January 2020, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

The Seed Grant for New African Principal Investigators (SG-NAPI) was established in response to the needs of researchers in developing countries, particularly those attached to institutions that lack appropriate research facilities. Under this scheme, grants can be awarded for research projects in Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Information Computer Technology, Mathematics, Medical Sciences and Physics to Principal Investigators in the African countries lagging in science and technology identified by TWAS, to enable them to purchase the research facilities they need to enhance their productivity.

The Seed Grant for New African Principal Investigators (SG-NAPI) aims to support early-career scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa, with particular emphasis on Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Seed Grant for New African Principal Investigators (SG-NAPI) is fully funded by The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Programme Details

  • SG-NAPI Grants are awarded to high-level promising research projects in Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Information Computer Technology, Mathematics, Medical Sciences and Physics carried out by Principal Investigators (PI) in the African countries lagging in science and technology identified by TWAS.
  • Research Grants to research units amount to a maximum of USD 67,700.
  • The grants, which are normally provided for a period of 24 months, may be used to purchase scientific equipment, consumables, which can include fieldwork and maintenance of equipment and specialized literature (textbooks and proceedings only). The grant does not cover salaries of the Principal Investigator or travel expenses unless they are clearly related to one of the conference and/or mobility components mentioned below. In addition, the purchase of laptops, tablets, drones and laboratory animals is not supported.
  • Awarded PIs may also support MSc student as part of the project, request funding for international conference grant, industrial link grant, mobility grant and open access publication grant. Full details of each component are laid out in the guidelines.
  • The programme has an additional component which seeks to enhance the productivity of female scientists returning to academia after a maternity leave, scientist-after-child grant. Full details of this component can be found in the guidelines.

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