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This roundtable will explore a) the important role that bodies overseeing research funding in Sub-Saharan Africa have played during the COVID-19 pandemic b) what this tells us about the critical role of science research and innovation in local and regional development in a post-COVID world.
Science, research and innovation are transforming societies the world over. Global transitions in environment, demographics and disease patterns are opening up new and pressing questions around the governance of research and innovation to support sustainable development, and strengthen local societies and economies. The role of science in development is widely recognised across Africa and ingrained in agendas and programmes such as the African Union's Agenda 2063. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges and opportunities for science communities globally. At the end of March 2020 multi-funder African Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) released a statement in response to the pandemic, outlining that the "scientific enterprise is being called upon to collectively diagnose, offer solutions and advice in the context of uncertainty and complexity." This statement sets out the importance of continuing to strengthen the capacities of science and research systems, including science advice and innovation at a national and regional level, to support continued development and rapid response mechanisms for future crises. But, how do science systems rapidly mobilise, harness and deploy financing and coordination capabilities in the midst of pervasive crises? What happens when the trends, assumptions and usual trajectories for decision-making are upended by global and local events? Are science, research and innovation systems in Sub-Saharan Africa adequately positioned to play relevant and sustained roles in societal response and recovery? Focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa and bringing together scholars, policy makers and practitioners, this round-table discussion will interrogate lessons from responses to the pandemic for the long recovery phase ahead.