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Ann Glob Health. 2016 Nov - Dec;82(6):1010-1025. doi: 10.1016/j.aogh.2016.10.011.

Building Sustainable Local Capacity for Global Health Research in West Africa.

Author information

Institute of Human Virology and Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; International Research Center of Excellence, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria; Department of Paediatrics, University of Cape Coast School of Medical Sciences, Cape Coast, Ghana. Electronic address:
Department of Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.
Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, Nashville, TN; Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.
Department of Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL.
Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria.
Department of Medical Microbiology, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana.
Department of Community Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu, Nigeria.
West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana.
School of Anaesthesia, Ridge Regional Hospital, Accra, Ghana.
School of Social Work, University of Georgia Athens, Athens, GA.
Healing Healthcare, New Orleans, LA.
Division of International Policy, Planning, and Evaluation and Center for Global Health Studies, Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.
Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Legon, Ghana.
Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, Washington, DC.
School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV; College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu, Nigeria.



Global health research in resource-limited countries has been largely sponsored and led by foreign institutions. Thus, these countries' training capacity and productivity in global health research is limited. Local participation at all levels of global health knowledge generation promotes equitable access to evidence-based solutions. Additionally, leadership inclusive of competent local professionals promotes best outcomes for local contextualization and implementation of successful global health solutions. Among the sub-Saharan African regions, West Africa in particular lags in research infrastructure, productivity, and impact in global health research.


In this paper, experts discuss strategies for scaling up West Africa's participation in global health evidence generation using examples from Ghana and Nigeria.


We conducted an online and professional network search to identify grants awarded for global health research and research education in Ghana and Nigeria. Principal investigators, global health educators, and representatives of funding institutions were invited to add their knowledge and expertise with regard to strengthening research capacity in West Africa.


While there has been some progress in obtaining foreign funding, foreign institutions still dominate local research. Local research funding opportunities in the 2 countries were found to be insufficient, disjointed, poorly sustained, and inadequately publicized, indicating weak infrastructure. As a result, research training programs produce graduates who ultimately fail to launch independent investigator careers because of lack of mentoring and poor infrastructural support.


Research funding and training opportunities in Ghana and Nigeria remain inadequate.


We recommend systems-level changes in mentoring, collaboration, and funding to drive the global health research agenda in these countries. Additionally, research training programs should be evaluated not only by numbers of individuals graduated but also by numbers of independent investigators and grants funded. Through equitable collaborations, infrastructure, and mentoring, West Africa can match the rest of Africa in impactful global health research.


capacity-building; financial support; global health; research; western Africa

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