In April 2020, about two months after the African continent recorded its first case of COVID-19, the African Academy of Sciences undertook an extensive survey of its members. This allowed hundreds of scientists in African countries to identify COVID-19 related research priorities across a range of disciplines. The Conversation Africa’s Natasha Joseph asked Dr Moses Alobo, who is heading the Academy’s COVID-19 response efforts, to explain the survey’s findings and how they can be applied.
What was the purpose of the survey, and who took part?
The COVID-19 crisis is global, and scientists are still trying to understand this SARS-CoV-2 virus. The African Academy of Sciences recognised there was an urgent need to help scientists, researchers and practitioners on the continent in pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical mitigation efforts. We need to provide guidance and resources that will help address COVID-19 by shifting the focus to specific needs that may be unique to the African continent. This is part of our work in providing advisory and think tank functions to, among other things, consolidate the continent’s scientific research efforts.
The survey helped to develop a prioritisation list for research and development for the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. Most of those priorities were based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Research Roadmap. We asked researchers to rank the priorities listed by the WHO to get an understanding of how Africa’s scientists are thinking about the pandemic. The Academy also hosted a webinar with nearly 300 participants before launching the survey, and some priorities not identified by the WHO were discussed there.