New Vision, Uganda
Olugbenga Ogedegbe Image Courtesy Of Get Healthy Harlem
With statistics showing a less than 1% growth in research in the last decade, public health experts meeting for the First Annual conference on Child Behavioral Health in Sub-Saharan Africa in Kampala are calling on African researchers to take the lead in investigating social problems.
According to Professor Olugbenga Ogedegbe, the vice dean at the New York University College of Global Public Health, the share of research from Africa grew from 1% to 2% in the last decade (2002-2014) and of this just about 0.72% comes from sub-Saharan Africa despite Africa being home of almost a billion people.
He argued that unless African governments start making reasonable investments in research, the priorities of research will continue to be determined by funders.
Research funding by African governments according to statistics is at a paltry 0.3% of the GDP way below the Abuja 2008 declaration that recommends 5%. “By investing in our own research, it will help us determine and focus on our priorities or pressing challenges. This is not always the case when someone else is funding and most times such funds come with restrictions,” he said. Professor Ogedegbe also emphasised the need for inter-regional collaborations other than competing against each other for grants to carry out more or less similar projects.
This not only enhances efficacy but also more impact to a wider community. Inter-regional collaborations according to statistics currently stand at 2.9% as most research relies heavily on international collaborations. “The limited partnership amongst peers is one of our biggest challenges and yet African researchers are some of the most skilled globally,” Professor Ogedegbe highlighted. According to Dr Joyce Wanican, the executive director of AfriChild, a child research centre at Makerere University for any research to be relevant, it should be able to answer the existing needs of society. She explained that currently working with different universities, the centre is advocating for research that is culturally and socially relevant to the communities. This has to be carried out by engaging the communities. Though statistics show an increasing rate of child mental health issues, there is limited research according to the experts to address these challenges. Currently one out of five adolescents is undergoing a mental health challenge.