Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and combating hotspots with escalating but preventable communicable diseases remain major challenges in Africa. The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) intervened to combat poverty-related diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and to conduct multi-centre clinical trials and multi-disciplinary health research through an innovative model of regional Networks of Excellence (NoEs).
We participated in a quasi-formative evaluation between October and December 2011 on the 4 regional-led research networks. These included the: Central Africa Network on Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CANTAM); East African Consortium for Clinical Research (EACCR); West African Network of Excellence for TB, AIDS and Malaria (WANETAM), and the Trials of Excellence for Southern Africa (TESA) launched between 2009 and 2010. We shared a participatory appraisal of field reports, progress reports and presentations from each network to jointly outline the initial experiences of the merits, outputs and lessons learnt.
The self-regulating democratic networks, with 64 institutions in 21 African countries, have trained over 1, 000 African scientists, upgraded 36 sites for clinical trials, leveraged additional € 24 million and generated 38 peer-reviewed publications through networking and partnerships.
The shared initial merits and lessons learnt portray in part the strengthened capacity of these networks for improved research coordination and conduct of planned multi-center clinical trials in Africa. Increased funding by African agencies, governments and international health partners will ensure sustainability of these networks for research capacity development and demonstrate their commitment to achieving the MDGs in Africa.