IDeAL Midterm Conference

The Initiative to Develop African Research Leaders (IDeAL) at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme hosted and exciting 2& ½ day conference to Celebrate the programmes 10 years in Capacity building at the Mövenpick Hotel in Nairobi

The main objective of the conference was to; celebrate the successes made in the creation of research leaders over the last 10 years, to highlight the key scientific outputs and contributions, and to initiate conversations that will ultimately provide the grounds of strengthening research and development within the region.

The conference played host to various stakeholders in the research field which included, Hon. Dr Kevit Desai the Principal secretary state Department for Vocational & Technical Training, Professor Charlotte Watts the Chief Scientific Adviser/Director Research and Evidence Division DFID, Dr. Simon Kay the Head of International Partnerships at the Wellcome Trust UK, Dr. Tom Kariuki the Director of Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) African Academy of science, our Executive Director Professor Philip Bejon, the Centre Director Dr. Benjamin Tsofa, Professor Kevin Marsh and the Host Dr Sam Kinyanjui among other distinguished members in the research community

The discussions in the meeting centered around the sustainability of capacity building initiatives, and the need for long term investments in the field to ensure this; especially by African countries. There was consensus that the center of gravity was shifting to Africa and the need for the research community to take advantage of the moment. Professor Watt specified the need for the support systems and structures in capacity building to support institutions and not individuals. The PS Hon Kevit was emphatic on the need for pathways which would promote curiosity in children to build the interest in research and the need for the research community to make use of the vocational and Technical training institutions in their unique position in the community by making linkages with the various Institutions

An exciting panel discussion on the second day focused on strengthening of research and development in Universities. Key issues raised were the roles of researchers in enriching the culture of research in tertiary institutions, the role of the North in the growth of this culture and the issue of gender parity vs equity among others. The panelists included Professor Kevin Marsh from the African Oxford Initiative, Dr. Zulu from AFIDEP, Professor Koi Tirima, Dr. Evelyn Gitau form APHRC and Professor Mulaa from the University of Nairobi

Dr Sam Kinyanjui highlighted the need of building a culture of research in the younger generation to attract them into research. He noted the need to invest in clear plans, resources and mentorship, also noting the need to move the discussions away from the thinking that students are not interested in research to the providing opportunities for them “Excellence begets excellence”, Professor Nelson Sewankambo highlighted that its only investing in high quality work that we would be able to attract and retain the right and top-level academics.

The other sessions included; beneficiaries from the previous strategic awards speaking about their journeys in research they included Dr. George Warimwe, Dr. Martha Mwangome and Dr Edwine Barasa who is now the Nairobi Programme Director, science session presentations chaired by Dr Ifedayo Adetifa and Dr. Benjamin Tsofa, Dr Francis Ndung’u and Dr Mainga Hamaluba, and exciting poster session by the IDeAL Fellows,