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Call for proposals to support Africa’s Science Granting Councils in strategic communications and knowledge translation

SGCI invites project proposals from organizations with experience in strategic communications and knowledge translation to support Africa’s science granting councils.

1. Executive summary

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) invites project proposals from organizations (including think tanks, institutes, universities and agencies) with proven experience and track records to support the councils in strategic communications and knowledge translation. Through new SGCI partnerships with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and IDRC, funding of up to CAD$880,000 is available for this work over a period of approximately 34 months. IDRC will enter into an agreement with the successful organization.

The following section provides the project’s background and context as well as potential objectives and approach. Applicants are expected to use this information only as a guide in developing their proposals. Proposals need not be limited to the points outlined below and originality/creativity will be among the key evaluation criteria.

2. Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa

 Science granting councils (and related organizations such as Commissions and Funds) perform crucial functions that contribute to the effective and efficient functioning of national science, technology and innovation (STI) systems. These functions vary from country to country but include the following: disbursement of grants for research, development and innovation, building research capacity through scholarships and bursaries, setting and monitoring research agendas and priorities, issuing research permits, formulating/revising national STI policies, providing policy advice to governments, managing bilateral/multilateral STI agreements, and monitoring and assessing the impacts of publicly funded research (and research funded from other sources).

Box 1: Participating SGCI countries

Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) has been supported by several funders since 2015, namely the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, IDRC, South Africa’s National Research Fund, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the German Research Foundation, and most recently the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The focus of the Initiative has been on strengthening the capacities of councils to support research and evidence-based policies that can contribute to economic and social development. The councils from 15 countries (Box 1) have been actively involved in the Initiative. Nigeria joined the Initiative in mid-2021, bringing the total number of SGCI councils to 16, and there is an opportunity for Sierra Leone to join in the near future.

The SGCI initially focused on strengthening the ability of the councils to: manage research; design and monitor research programs and formulate and implement policies based on the use of STI indicators; support knowledge exchange with the private sector; and establish partnerships among councils and with other science system actors. In its current second phase (SGCI-2), work with the councils in these areas has deepened and broadened, with additional attention to research excellence, strategic communications/uptake of knowledge outputs, and gender equality and inclusivity (Box 2). Councils received funding to manage research calls and have drawn on their enhanced capacities to promote collaborative research projects and networking.

Box 2: SGCI-2 Themes

Theme 1: Strengthen the ability of science granting councils in research management

Theme 2: Strengthen the capacity of science granting councils to use data and evidence in policy and decision-making 

Theme 3: Support the ability of science granting councils to fund research and innovation

Theme 4: Support strategic communications, uptake of knowledge outputs and networking

Theme 5: Strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in gender equality and inclusivity

3. Background and context

The central role of science, technology and innovation and related factors (for example, investment in education and favourable industrial policies) in economic growth and in addressing development challenges is widely recognized by African leaders and other policy actors. This recognition is manifested in several ways, including through several national, regional and continental policies enacted in Africa over the last decade. For instance, the African Union’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024), developed in 2014 as part of the African Union Agenda 2063, places STI at the epicentre of the continent’s socio-economic development. STISA’s mission is to “Accelerate Africa’s transition to innovation-led knowledge-based economies”. STISA-2024 is clear on the urgent need for Africa to have knowledge-based economies by putting a competitive research infrastructure base in place, supporting technical and professional competencies, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship and building a conducive policy environment for STI. Science granting councils are envisaged as key players in the development of strong national science, technology and innovation systems, which are the precursors for transforming to the knowledge-based African economies proposed by STISA-2024.

Box 3: Summary of achievements

1.Councils from Kenya and Botswana were supported to develop communication strategies and implementation plans. Councils from Malawi, Uganda and Namibia are currently receiving similar support.

2. The outcomes/impact of SGCI’s work were documented and published in local news outlets by national science journalists identified and accredited by the councils.  

3. A knowledge management strategy, a communication and facilitation guide, a training handbook and a communications booklet were produced. Several tools (including a training manual and a reference guidebook) were developed and used to train the councils on effective engagement with policy and decision-makers in partnership with other collaborating technical agencies.

4. Three issues of the SGCI Footprints Newsletter documented the impact of SGCI.

5. Six masterclass papers were commissioned (Table 1) and several policy briefs and journal articles were published from these papers.

6. An online monitoring, evaluation and learning tracker/platform was developed to enable the councils to monitor, track, record and report their activities.

7.  Several training courses on communications and knowledge management were held.

Since early 2020, SGCI-2 has supported a project on strategic communications, uptake of knowledge outputs and networking with the following objectives: supporting the councils to develop communication strategies and implementation plans; demonstrating the impact of SGCI’s capacity strengthening activities by documenting and disseminating stories of change/impact; providing training in policy engagement, including writing policy briefs; commissioning masterclass papers and supporting the writing of journal articles and other publications arising from the papers. Examples of achievements are presented in Box 3.

SGCI contributes to key STI policy debates at national, regional and continental levels by supporting various dialogues and meetings (including regional meetings and annual forums). The Annual Forums serve as SGCI’s substantive meetings. Each forum is a key moment for the heads of research councils, coordinators and other senior staff to network with each other and with key national/regional actors in the scientific community. The forums include executive seminars or “masterclasses” that feature commissioned papers authored by subject-matter experts on an emerging topic related to each forum’s theme. These sessions are innovative and rigorous in terms of the way in which they are conducted, the quality of facilitation and the discussions that take place. The SGCI has so far convened six forums in collaboration with participating councils (Table 1). A seventh forum is scheduled in December 2022.

Table 1: Commissioned masterclass papers





Investing in research excellence in Africa

Maputo, Mozambique


Towards effective public-private partnerships in research and innovation

Livingstone, Zambia


New approaches for funding research and innovation in Africa

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire


Open science in research and innovation for development

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Ethics and integrity in research and innovation

Virtual meeting (March 2021)


Public engagement in research and innovation

Virtual meeting (November 2021)

Aside from the masterclass papers or reviews, the SGCI generates other knowledge and learning products through various activities. These include journal/review articles, policy briefs, good practice guidelines, standard operating procedures, templates, grants management templates, toolkits, new methodologies and approaches, reports of commissioned studies and books. Moreover, as research projects are implemented, other knowledge products are anticipated including technical reports, working papers, policy briefs and journal articles. These products are shared with the councils, collaborating technical agencies and other stakeholders and posted on the SGCI website ( to facilitate access.

SGCI recognizes that the value of knowledge outputs from its activities lies in their uptake and use and, the extent to which they inform and influence policies, practices and systems among the councils and their affiliates. It is in this context that the Initiative has developed a strategy to facilitate and monitor uptake of knowledge and learning outputs.

4. Project objectives

The project objectives could include the following:

For the SGCI:

  1. Strengthen and promote the SGCI brand in Africa by supporting the implementation of SGCI’s strategy for communications and outreach. This includes producing creative communication materials in various formats.
  2. Implement SGCI’s strategy for facilitating and monitoring the uptake of knowledge and learning outputs. This includes collating and cataloguing all relevant knowledge outputs produced by the collaborating technical agencies, the councils and their grantees, and share these through the SGCI website.
  3. Collect and package the SGCI’s stories of change/impact associated with SGCI’s work and share these through quarterly SGCI Footprints Newsletters, social media channels (including Twitter and LinkedIn) and the SGCI website. This effort will be carried out in close collaboration with the collaborating technical agency responsible for the use of data/ evidence, other collaborating technical agencies, the councils and the Initiative management team.
  4. Commission state-of-the-art papers to inform masterclass sessions and support the authors to write knowledge outputs (e.g. journal articles, policy briefs) from these papers, and support the masterclass sessions held during annual forums.

For the councils:

  1. Provide training and technical support to the councils on effective engagement with policy- and decision-makers in close collaboration with the collaborating technical agency responsible for the use of data/ evidence. This activity will build on ongoing work in which a training manual and coaching roadmap have been developed to help the councils apply various approaches, tools and strategies for influencing policy and practice.
  2. Support dissemination of the results from SGCI-supported research projects in collaboration with the councils, the collaborating technical agencies and Initiative management team.
  3. Support national science journalists to document the outcomes and impact of SGCI’s work and publish these in national news outlets and the SGCI website. This activity builds on ongoing work in which journalists from various countries have been accredited and linked to the councils.

5.  Scope and modalities of the project

A competitive process will select a suitable organization (or a consortium of organizations) to implement this project. Technical support to the councils could be achieved through approaches such as customized in-country coaching and group training courses and workshops offered by project staff or using communication specialists. The Councils’ Committee (in close consultation with the Initiative management team and the executive committee) typically selects the host council and the theme of each forum during its annual meetings. Two annual forums are planned in 2023 and 2024.

6. Timelines and budget

Due dates


July 22, 2022

Call for submission of project proposals

August 26, 2022

Deadline for receipt of proposals

September 16, 2022

Results of selection process communicated to applicants

The budget available for this project is approximately CAD$880,000 (all inclusive) for approximately 34 months.

A draft budget should be submitted using the IDRC template (Proposal Budget | IDRC - International Development Research Centre). The budget should be in the organization’s working currency (Currency Converter | Foreign Exchange Rates | OANDA).

7. Guidelines for proposal submission

Proposals (25 pages or less, excluding annexes) should be submitted electronically to the SGCI secretariat ( by August 26, 2022 (17:00 East Africa Time). Proposals submitted after this deadline will not be accepted. All questions about this call should be sent to secretariat by July 29, 2022 and the responses will be posted on the SGCI website.

Proposals should be submitted in English using Word format. They should be concise and include the following elements at a minimum:

  • Title, name, address and contacts of the project leader and name and address of the applicant organization;
  • executive summary;
  • project background and rationale;
  • goal, specific objectives, key activities and links to other SGCI themes;
  • project implementation approach;
  • expected outputs and outcomes;
  • project-level monitoring, evaluation and learning and governance;
  • gender equality and inclusivity and ethical considerations;
  • risks and potential mitigation measures (this information can be presented in a table listing the major potential risks associated with the project implementation, as well their probability/impact and potential management measures);
  • organizational profile(s) and key project personnel; and  
  • brief biodata of the project’s key team members (as an annex).

8. Project team requirements

The requirements for the project team members include the following:

  • Experience in various aspects of strategic communications and knowledge translation approaches (including dissemination of research results and effective engagement with policymakers).
  • Practical experience with various communication tools and approaches, including online platforms, social media, infographics, video production, newsletter production and media engagement.
  • Knowledge of national science, technology and innovation systems in Africa, including the key actors (organizations), policies and the roles of science granting councils in brokering, facilitating, funding and coordinating the interactions among the various actors.
  • Experience working with science granting councils and other public sector science, technology and innovation organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Ability to work in both English and French is a requirement and applications without both language capabilities will not be evaluated. Ability to work in Portuguese will be an advantage.

9. Evaluation criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by the SGCI Initiative management team and scored using a

50-point scale (as shown below):

  • Expertise and practical experience of project team members in strategic communications, knowledge translation, communication tools and approaches and other areas covered by the project, and in working with science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa (14 points).
  • Originality, creativity and clarity of the proposal, demonstrating familiarity with SGCI’s work and a clear understanding of the project’s ambition and the roles of science granting councils in the context of national science, technology and innovation systems as well as a clear articulation of how the project will build on and reinforce ongoing SGCI work on strategic communications, and links with other related efforts (12 points).
  • Clarity and soundness of the project’s implementation approach, including appropriateness for sub-Saharan Africa councils, value for money principles and the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as alignment with the SGCI’s collaborative implementation approach (10 points).
  • Clarity/justification of the budget and the extent of its alignment with the proposed project activities (6 points).
  • Level of project team members’ presence in sub-Saharan Africa (8 points).

10. About the funding partners

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is a United Kingdom government department that pursues national interests and projects the UK as a force for good in the world. It promotes the interests of British citizens, safeguards the UK’s security, defend its values, reduces poverty and tackles global challenges with international partners.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its main purpose is to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Agency has five main priorities: Invest more strategically; Be a key partner in sustainable development; Contribute to a greener world; Be a champion of innovation within development cooperation and; Strengthen and systematize the development, sharing and use of knowledge within the organization.

The International Development Research Centre is a Canadian Crown corporation that supports the generation of knowledge and innovation for positive change. The Centre generates, identifies and tests scalable ideas and innovations; connects solutions with actors who can help achieve large-scale impact; and examines early wins in scaling up to identify and share critical success factors.

The National Research Foundation is South Africa’s government mandated research and science development agency. The Foundation’s goal is to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency is a government agency of Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It strives to reduce world poverty by allocating resources and knowledge with the goal of making a difference for people in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. To achieve this, the agency collaborates with actors from civil society, universities and the public and private sector.

The German Research Foundation is the self-governing organization for science and research in Germany. It serves all branches of science and the humanities. In organizational terms, it is an association under private law. Its membership consists of German research universities, non-university research institutions, scientific associations and the Academies of Science and the Humanities.