Foundation research

Funds withdrawn from AAS can be donated to a new foundation

The Science for Africa Foundation is already recruiting former staff members of the African Academy of Sciences

International donors who withdrew money from the African Academy of Sciences last year amid a governance wrangle are in talks with a new science foundation for Africa to handle some of their funding from the research.

Although those involved in discussions around the Science Foundation for Africa are leery of the details, the fledgling body based in Nairobi, Kenya, is already hiring former AAS staff.

The foundation is in talks with the biomedical research charity Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, two of the funders who withdrew grants from the research management arm of the AAS in July of last year.

“We are having a constructive discussion with the Science for Africa Foundation on how Wellcome can continue to fulfill our commitment to supporting African science,” said a spokesperson for the London-based charity.

Millions at stake

The grants management arm of the AAS, the Alliance for Accelerating Scientific Excellence in Africa (AESA), was established in 2015 as a partnership between the academy, the African Development Agency African Union and global funding partners including Wellcome and Gates.

AESA’s aim was to “shift the center of gravity” of African research funding decision-making from Seattle, London and other global donor centers to the continent itself. He came to manage hundreds of millions of dollars in grants.

However, Wellcome, Gates and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) withdrew their grants from the platform at the end of July last year, citing concerns about the governance of the ASA. The academy’s executive board strongly rejected the backers’ claims.

The academy laid off nearly half of its secretarial staff after funding was withdrawn. Most have been rehired by consultancy PwC Kenya, which Wellcome has contracted to manage its AESA grants while it seeks a more permanent solution.

Research Professional News understands that many of them are now working with the Science for Africa Foundation, which is being established and operationalized by PwC according to a job offer a human resources manager working for the foundation.

Transition period

Neither Wellcome nor the Gates Foundation would comment on what research programs the new foundation might run, saying discussions were ongoing.

A spokesperson for the Gates Foundation said: “We continue to have productive conversations with all stakeholders involved in this transition, including the Science for Africa Foundation, and our goal remains to work alongside others. funders to ensure the important work of the programs administered under the EASA movements. move forward without further disturbance.

Catherine Ngila, acting executive director of AAS, told Research Professional News that she had heard of the Science For Africa Foundation, but that foundation staff who previously worked at AAS had not yet officially approached his organization for a partnership.

She wrote in an email that the Gates Foundation “still has grants in the AAS” and that the academy “still has some engagement with the FCDO in a small way” through a program on the climate change.

“So far we only engage with PwC on Wellcome Trust beneficiaries and I’m told [the Science for Africa Foundation] is working closely with PwC to facilitate the transition,” she wrote.