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Investments in health research for better health: current benefits and future potential of engagement with EDCTP in the East Africa Community

28 February 2018

The East Africa Community (EAC) convened its 19th Summit of EAC Heads of State and Joint Retreat on Infrastructure and Health Financing and Development on 21-23 February 2018 in Kampala Uganda. The Retreat on 22 February was preceded by the first Round Table on ‘investing in health infrastructure, systems, services and research for the accelerated attainment of universal health coverage and sustainable development goals’ on 21 February. The Round table programme contributed to the discussions at the Joint EAC Heads of State Retreat the next day. EAC presented its Priority Framework 2018-2028 for investment in the health sector.

Dr Michael Makanga, EDCTP Executive Director, was invited as a speaker at the Round Table with a presentation on the EDCTP strategy and its support of research capacity development for clinical trials of pharmaceutical products in the EAC region. He also participated in the Retreat together with the EDCTP High Representative South, Dr Leonardo Simão.

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Left to right: Dr Makanga (EDCTP), Hon. Ummy Mwalimu, Minister of Health and Social Welfare (Tanzania), Hon. Sarah Achieng Opendi, Minister of State for Health (Uganda), and Hon. Patrick Ndimubanzi, Minister of State for Health in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare (Rwanda)

EDCTP investments in the East African Community
Currently, EDCTP funds projects in 35 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, in which research organisations from 16 European countries participate. The participation from the EAC region comprises 63 projects. Grant agreements have been successfully concluded for 36 projects; grant agreements for 27 projects more recently selected are under development. The total grant value of the projects with signed grant agreements amounts to €149.8 million of which €25.93 million is invested in East Africa. Projects are executed in EAC members Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The East Africa Consortium for Clinical Research (EACCRE2) is the EDCTP-funded network of excellence in the EAC region. Moreover, Tanzania and Uganda participate in EDCTP decision-making through their membership of the EDCTP Association and its governing body the General Assembly.

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Figure 1: EDCTP signed-grant value per EAC member (in millions of euro)

EDCTP and EAC health investment priorities
In his contribution Dr Makanga summarised EDCTP’s strategy and illustrated its funding approach with several EDCTP-funded health research projects in the region. He made a clear case for further EAC engagement with EDCTP as this would contribute to addressing the priorities presented in the EAC ‘Health Sector investment priority framework 2018-2028’. The framework integrates in one vision the expansion of access to health care and medicinal products, the improvement of health care services, and the required capacity development.

The opportunities and instruments EDCTP can offer within the scope of its programme, are aligned with this agenda. EDCTP supports clinical research generating data for policy; African capacity to conduct and regulate clinical research; preparedness for epidemic outbreaks; regional collaboration for clinical research and research capacity development; partnerships and shared decision-making; and synergy between governments, research funders and healthcare providers to make investments in health care and health research more effective.

Figure 2: EDCTP-funded projects - clinical research and (integrated) capacity development

EDCTP’s funding strategy to ‘leave no one behind’
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that the dignity of all is fundamental to every nation, people or group of society. In this spirit of ‘leaving no one behind’, EDCTP supports collaborative, inclusive clinical research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. EDCTP funding rules assure that several objectives are integrated in a single strategic approach.

High-quality clinical research on poverty-related infectious diseases is the first objective. This is integrated with the second objective, support for the development of African clinical research capacity. Funding rules assure the involvement of African scientists and institutions. African clinical research capacity is also strengthened through a comprehensive fellowship programme and support for development of national and institutional capacity to review and regulate clinical research. Four EDCTP-funded regional networks of excellence aim to network national efforts on infectious diseases and target the specific needs of each region.

EDCTP-funded clinical research also generates evidence to inform health care and treatment policies for populations often excluded from clinical trials. Among these are pregnant women, newborns, children, and other vulnerable populations, as well as people with co-infections and co-morbidities.

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