With the support of the Robert Bosch Foundation, we launched the AREF Excell Research and Leadership Development programme at the end of 2017.

Since then, the two-year programme has delivered five workshops, transforming the research leadership capabilities of six partner institutions and 20 of their nominated fellows.

Dr Akhere Omonkhua is an AREF institutional lead at the University of Benin’s Centre in Reproductive Health Innovation (CEHRI) in Nigeria - one of the institutions which has strengthened its own research capacity thanks to the Excell programme. Akhere says there is also a stronger culture of research excellence, and this is now built into the centre’s programmes.

The leadership programme has particularly helped with embedding mentoring into our activities. We now see a better mentor-mentee relationship, meaning people come to you and ask how they can advance their career, and you have that opportunity to guide them. My centre was initially built on masters and PhD programmes, and with AREF’s support we’ve also been able to develop a postdoctoral offering, which starts in 2021.

Most of the nominated researchers have been able to attract more grants, and I think that is a positive effect. Because of course if you get more grants, you can do better research and better serve your communities.