Africa fails to take charge of own COVID 19 research

Almost two years on, Sub-Sahara Africa is yet to drive own COVID 19 research, with US and UK taking the lead.

For example, of 5,312 COVID 19 research papers published to June 2021from Sub-Sahara Africa almost half, 45 per cent, were funded by US and UK organizations.

These papers however consisted only about three per cent of the 178,780 COVID 19 researches published globally during the period.

A preprint posted on medRxiv on Tuesday (28th September 2021) by the University of Western Ontario, Canada, shows Africa performing dismally in COVID 19 research.

It also shows a whopping 63 percent of the papers from the region came from South Africa and Nigeria alone.

Low research output

South Africa contributed about 42 percent of all the publications from the 46 Sub-Saharan African countries.

Other substantial contributions are from Nigeria at about 21 percent, Ethiopia, 9 per cent, and Kenya and Ghana with about seven per cent each.

The study shows between January 2020 and June 2021 Africa had published the lowest number of COVID 19 research papers compared to other parts of the world.

While the data shows high collaboration between African researchers and oversees counterparts there was little intra Africa collaboration.

Apart from South Africa which collaborated and even funded research in many other African countries other Nations in the region had little input in intra Africa collaboration.

On average, all the 10 most productive Sub Sahara African countries collaborated with seven of the top ten collaborating countries from outside the region.

Foreign influence

This, the authors say further shows that countries from outside the region have greater influence on Sub-Saharan Africa’s COVID-19 research than either nationally or from neighbours.

The results show that the US and UK collaborated with Sub Saharan African countries on COVID-19 research on about 20 per cent of all publications.

The study also suggests that researchers in Africa were most likely to participate in international collaborations as fringe participants, not as the first authors or principal investigators.

For example, of the five COVID 19 clinical trials going on in Kenya they are all funded by the US, UK , China and South Africa.

While most have local Principal Investigators they have no authority to freely discuss their work with the media or public without express authority from the owners of the vaccine candidates.


Most of the funding for the published studies came from overseas with a third of it from the US which was almost twice more than the UK and eight times more than Canada.

“The US and UK provided about 45 per cent of all COVID-19 research funding for Sub-Saharan Africa,” says the study

The result also shows that the top five organizations that funded most COVID 19 research in Sub-Saharan Africa are in the US, UK and Canada.

The top three organizations that funded most COVID 19 research in Sub-Saharan Africa are the US National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust of UK and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Other countries including India, Australia, Canada, Germany, and Italy in that order also collaborated with Africa on COVID 19 research.

The only substantial funding from within the continent came from the South African Medical Research Council.

By Gatonye Gathura

The preprint is available here:


About Gatonye Gathura 142 Articles
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