SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Updating the case studies of the Political Economy of Science Granting Councils


Despite increasing understanding that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is important for achieving economic growth and reaching development goals, STI in Sub-Saharan Africa still suffers from research policy, management and funding challenges. The Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) was set up to strengthen Science Granting Councils in 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

A two-phase project was commissioned by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in response to an increasing recognition of the importance of improving understanding of the Political Economy of science and research in Africa. The project aims to support the SGCI by carrying out research to advance existing knowledge on the political and economic context of Science Granting Councils in selected countries/regions and to identify key areas to inform and improve SGCI policy, objectives and activities. The research (currently in its second phase) involves five national case studies: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania.


Phase 1 (2017- 2018):

The first phase of the research, the baseline study, focussed on developing an understanding of the political and economic context of Science Granting Councils. The research team used a conceptual mixed method approach.

Phase 1 research involved:

  • a literature review, including a review of regional-level data
  • semi-structured interviews with representatives from regional and sub-regional science and policy funding bodies
  • five national case studies (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania) involving analysis of literature such as reports, government documents and key informant interviews

Phase 1 found that although the case study countries were committed to increasing funding for science, Science Granting Councils need to gain political support in order to increase investment in research. Similarly, the study found that although the private sector could play a key role in the SGCI, private sector funding is low and engagement is patchy. The full report of findings from Phase 1 can be read here. A Policy Brief containing key findings and recommendation for the SGCI was also produced.

Phase 2 (2019 – 2020):

The second phase of the project is led by Dr Chux Daniels (SPRU) in collaboration with the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS). Phase 2 will investigate the ways in which the Political Economy of Science Granting Councils has changed since the completion of the ‘baseline’ (Phase 1). Two other members of SPRU faculty are also part of the team: Dr Robert Byrne and Ms Sanda Pointel.

The research examines selected indicators and findings from the Phase 1 study using a combination of qualitative and quantitative information. The selection of indicators is based on those indicators that would enable the research team to identify change – incremental, radical or an early sign of change – since the completion of the Phase 1 study. This will involve an in-depth literature review as well as the collection and analysis of data. Data will include changes in: money granted to Science Granting Councils, their expenditure and financial allocations. Interviews will also be undertaken with representatives of national Science Granting Councils, recipients of research funding, policymakers or decision-makers with science and technology oversight.

Impact and outreach

By updating the phase one findings on the case studies of the Political Economy of SGCs, this research will advance existing knowledge on the political and economic context of SGCs in the selected countries/regions, including the role and influence of key institutions, agents and structures. The research will aid the SGCI in their goal to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils to support research and evidence-based policies that contribute to social and economic development. Deepening understanding of how the SGCs operate, in what context, and how they can improve, could have a far-reaching impact in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, leading to continued gains for Science Technology and Innovation development across the continent.

Further information

The study supports the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) which is a multi-funder initiative.

The SGCI is a partnership between: