The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) works to strengthen the health research capacity of scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa who are engaged in tackling the sub-region’s significant health challenges. AREF is calling for applications from scientists who are active, emerging biomedical/health researchers in Sub-Saharan African countries to participate in its Essential Skills for Grant Writing Programme.  

This fully on-line programme will be held over eight 3-hour sessions during the weeks of 17th October 2022 and 28th November 2022.  There will be a five-week break in between the two sessions, where you will be expected to write a mini proposal.  This is an intensive programme that is designed to produce tangible progress towards a grant proposal by the end of the programme series. Your commitment to the entire series and to the additional work outside of sessions will be necessary to achieve these outcomes.

To fully benefit from this programme series, you will be at a stage in your research career where you are actively seeking independent funding, and perhaps have won smaller grants, but have yet to secure that big grant necessary to support your research independence. 

The Programme series

Programme aim

The Programme aim is to enable talented early-career health- and health-related researchers from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to build skills to develop their own research and fellowship proposals of the quality required to win competitive international, regional and national funding.

What the Programme will cover

  1. Why competitive-proposal writing matters
  2. Understanding funders’ requirements
  3. Formulating your compelling research question
  4. Writing in plain English
  5. Writing your Letter of Intent / Concept Note / Preliminary proposal
  6. Key parts of a typical Case for Support / Project Description
  7. Planning your proposal project plan and budget
  8. Principles of managing your collaboration and team
  9. Understanding and practicing peer review
  10. Preparing for a Fellowship interview.

What the Programme will not cover

The programme will not cover the following: how to research ethics approval; how to complete individual funders’ application forms; the details of intellectual property management; practice in research communication.

The facilitators will use examples of real funding applications. However, they will not be assisting participants directly with the participants’ own specific proposals.

Format of the Programme series

The Programme series will be held as follows

  • Monday 17 to Friday 21 October 2022: daily 3-hour on-line sessions, 09:30 – 12:30 GMT
  • Monday 28 to Wednesday 30 November 2022: daily sessions 3-hour on-line sessions, 09:30 – 12:30 GMT

Participants will be provided with appropriate learning materials including preparatory exercises before the first session and between sessions. Each session will be delivered through Zoom or an equivalent platform. Participants will work in on-line groups and subgroups. All sessions will be conducted in English.


AREF does not provide funding for participants to access equipment or internet services with which to participate. Nor do we reimburse you or your institution for any other expenses associated with the programme or any form of per diem payment.

Our expectations of participants



  • commit to all on-line sessions for the full duration of each session. These sessions are interactive and will require your active participation. A participant who misses two or more sessions will not be awarded a certificate of completion.
  • commit approximately an additional hour each day to prepare for each session through reading and pre-work assignments/reflections.
  • dedicate significant time during the five-week period in between programme sessions to write a draft of your own research proposal, which will then be utilised in the final three sessions.
  • have access to good bandwidth and a computer or laptop that is set up to use the Zoom platform (IT department may control your ability to use online platforms)
  • be able to use a smart phone simultaneously with the Zoom platform


You will also be expected to participate in AREF monitoring and evaluation surveys to track outcomes.


AREF welcomes applications for this Programme from researchers who are actively working on challenges to human health and are trained and experienced in one or more of the following disciplines: biomedicine; physiology and pharmacology; clinical sciences; epidemiology; mathematics and statistics; environmental health; “one health” (veterinary science); behavioural, social and economic sciences; and health policy and systems research.


To be eligible, you need to provide evidence that:

  • You are a citizen of a country in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • You are in the early stages of your research career, having completed your research education


  • you have been awarded a research doctorate (PhD/DPhil/MD) from a recognised academic institution normally within the previous 6 years, (i.e. awarded on or after 1 January 2015);
  • OR you have a medical/clinical qualification PLUS a research-relevant Master’s degree, both awarded normally within the previous 6 years (i.e. awarded on or after 1 January 2015).
  • AND you are currently employed in Sub-Saharan Africa by a recognised university and/or specialist research institution.
  • You have not participated already in equivalent proposal development / grant-writing training.
  • A significant part of your current employee role is to develop and conduct health research.
  • You do not already have a significant portfolio of international research grants (Combined value of £250,000 or more).

Criteria for selection

Capacity to benefit

Your application will be assessed in terms of your capacity to benefit from the training, using the following kinds of evidence:

  1. Your research experience, outputs and other achievements as an emerging researcher up to now.
  2. How you will use the training to achieve your personal vision for your development as a scientist who can address key health challenges important to Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. How you will “cascade”, i.e. to pass on, the knowledge and skills you have gained from the programme
  4. Practical support committed by your sponsor(s) or mentor(s).
  5. Adequate command of English.

Programme participants will be shortlisted from the eligible applicants using these criteria.  Only applicants who meet the capacity to benefit criteria will be on the shortlist, from which the final selection will be made.

Diversity and inclusivity

To ensure equity across research organisations, no more than two shortlisted participants will be finally selected from any one employing institution and AREF aims to maintain a gender and language-balanced selection of participants across its programmes.

How to apply

To apply, complete the online Application Form. You must also download the following supporting documents, complete and attach them to the online form in Section 4 along with other required supporting documents before submitting.

  1. Applicant Portfolio Of Research Grants
  2. Application Signatures

Key dates

Deadline for your application is 16:00 hours GMT on 19 August 2022 

AREF will inform applicants about the outcome of their application in the week beginning 19 September 2022


If you have any queries, contact us at [email protected]