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Central and West Africa

For over 50 years, IDRC has played a crucial role in facilitating research, innovation, collaboration and knowledge sharing among stakeholders in the region, enabling meaningful advancements in various domains. 

As per IDRC's priorities outlined in Strategy 2030 regarding high-quality research and achieving greater impact on a larger scale, the Central and West Africa Regional Office (WARO) contributes to the realization of the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the SDGs, which respectively serve as the continental and global comprehensive blueprint for inclusive and sustainable development.

Research focus

IDRC is involved in a diverse range of projects and initiatives that address critical areas such as strengthening health systems, promoting sustainable economies, supporting good governance and inclusive justice systems, enhancing sustainable agricultural productivity for food security, and tackling inequalities and climate change. Our prominent programs in the region focus on education through the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange Program (KIX) and the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI). Our research also actively promotes the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), artificial intelligence, as well as addresses critical health issues such as maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls, and pandemic preparedness programming.


Burkina Faso


Central African Republic


Ivory Coast

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Equatorial Guinea












Sierra Leone


Country Profile

We’ve supported Benin researchers since 1985. Positive developments have included rapid alert committees to inform farmers about climatic hazards in their communities. Researchers also trained large numbers of farmers in sustainable agricultural practices, and gave the country’s decision-makers tools to design policies to combat poverty. 

Access to health care

To encourage better access to health services, IDRC-supported research in Benin contributed to the “Bamako Initiative.” Adopted by many African leaders, it aims to improve access to health care and essential medications throughout Africa. Researchers proved that buying generic drugs wholesale considerably diminished treatment costs. 

Farming in urban and rural settings

Our funding in agricultural research in Benin has helped improve small farm operations. For example, the Songhai Centre trains farmers to lessen environmental degradation and adopt effective agricultural techniques to help them earn a profit. With our support, a network of telecentres was established in three small Benin cities. Using distance learning, these centres teach farming techniques and business skills to rural farmers. 

Research in Houéyiho, a district of the economic capital, Cotonou, made it possible to evaluate and protect against the health risks associated with small-scale market gardening. Urban market gardeners adopted simple measures, such as building latrines, to successfully prevent transmission of the malaria parasite and improve the health of farmers and their families. 

Total IDRC Support

106 activities worth CAD23.6 million since 1985

Benin woman carrying water on her head.
World Bank / A.Hoel

Our research is helping

  • create sustainable food production in the Sahel region
  • reduce the negative effects of climate change on food security and rural poverty
  • reduce urban air pollution, which causes more than 36 million deaths annually worldwide 
  • establish strong research capabilities at Benin’s Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy 
  • support ecohealth initiatives in Eastern and Southern Africa — exploring how changes in the earth's ecosystems affect human health

Country Profile

Our long history of research support in Burkina Faso dates back to 1973 — one of the few West African countries with a national coordinating centre for research. Our support has enabled the centre to launch a biennial forum where decision-makers, scientists, and the public can discuss research results and innovation. We have also enabled researchers to create an online justice system database so leaders can re-orient health policy. This database allows the poor access to services at regional hospitals.

Food and incomes

Our contributions improved food security for rural residents through research on wild fruit. It led to better harvesting, processing, and marketing techniques, as well as improved information on the fruit’s nutritional value. Research also made it possible for harvesters to sell sought-after products in cities, while preserving the wild orchards’ natural biodiversity. In collaboration with Canadian experts, researchers developed a press to extract butter from shea tree nuts. Hundreds of villagers and numerous small enterprises now produce and sell a wide range of food and cosmetic products using the butter, and export them to developed countries.

Evidence to foster self-sufficiency

IDRC-funded researchers designed a system for communities to collect and track data to accurately understand poverty. The information helps communities address their most pressing problems. For example, more people in the small village of Yako now have adequate food to eat, and more of their children attend school. The village has also started a community vegetable garden, installed a solar-powered water pump, and built more solid housing.

Total IDRC Support

185 activities worth CAD44.9 million since 1973

Kids in Burkina Faso raising their hands in class.
DFID / J.Lea

Our support is helping

  • validate and promote already-existing research results and innovations 
  • strengthen research and advocacy for Africa’s green revolution
  • institute a university master’s program in health systems and policy analysis
  • improve food security in the context of climate change, with incentives for farmers and researchers

Country Profile

Our support for research in Ghana has helped build strong links between this stable African democracy and Canada. For example, a pioneering program for the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences’ Next Einstein Initiative nurtures future mathematical experts with the advanced skills to tackle urgent environmental, health, and economic challenges.  

IDRC’s John Atta Mills fellowship, named for the late president of Ghana (2009–2012), also strengthened ties between the two countries. From his base at the University of British Columbia, Mills travelled across Canada to increase awareness of the challenges facing Africa.

Reducing inequality in health care

Our funds sponsored Ghana Health Service research to improve the country’s national health insurance program. Major reforms extended health care to the aged, the poor, and children under 18. Since then, a regional research partnership helped form a network to generate solid evidence on health equity and financing issues in developing countries. 

A non-governmental organization, BasicNeeds, conducted research on the barriers to access mental health services in Ghana. They shared results with policymakers and mental health professionals, and launched a national public awareness campaign. This initiative also led to mutual support groups among the mentally ill.

IDRC-supported work helped spread the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria. Research showed that using the nets significantly reduces child mortality. Researchers also found ways for governments to encourage people to buy and correctly use the nets.

Information technology and democracy

Researchers in Ghana found innovative ways to use information technology to enhance democracy. They set up a web link between a poor region in northern Ghana and the country’s parliament. The project demonstrated that such technologies can greatly increase interactions between previously excluded citizens and national leaders.

Total IDRC Support

201 activities worth CAD57.1 million since 1973

Women in Ghana learning how to weave.
UN / E.Debebe

Our support is helping 

  • improve governance through better access to information
  • strengthen policy research capabilities in Ghana’s think tanks 
  • fight the lethal yellowing disease that threatens farmers’ coconut crops
  • provide options to address climate change’s impact on water and health — affecting especially the poor
  • enhance the quality of climate change science at the University of Ghana

Country Profile

Nigeria has earned a reputation for training some of the best researchers in Africa — despite periods of repressive military rule. Since the country’s return to democracy in 1998, our support has focused on improving Nigeria’s health system and developing sound national economic and environmental policies.

Health care and anti-poverty programs

Our support has allowed researchers and professionals in many African countries, including Nigeria, to access essential medical information. An online information network, HealthNet, brings valuable medical information to the most remote areas by satellite. This service allows professionals to offer an improved level of service to their patients. 

We also fund effective and influential economic research in Nigeria. For example, the IDRC-supported Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research provides policymakers with data on the impacts of public policies on households and small businesses. This research forms the basis for anti-poverty programs.

Better harvests

Our support for researchers has yielded advances in agriculture. For example, researchers have encouraged the widespread use of soy, a healthy legume. Nigeria is now one of the major soy producers in Africa.

Research conducted in southwestern Nigeria on agroforestry allowed farmers to combine tree planting with food crops. This helps combat the negative impact of deforestation, while increasing soil fertility and giving poor rural villages extra income.

Total IDRC Support

206 activities worth CAD77.6 million since 1972

A woman smiling in a market in Nigeria.
DFID / A.Smith

Our support is helping 

  • promote tobacco control laws and policies  
  • increase food security and empower resource-poor rural women farmers
  • revitalize the health care system to deliver effective, efficient, and equitable primary health care in two states 
  • enhance the abilities of Nigerian think tanks to conduct research and influence policy

Country Profile

We have long supported research in Senegal, one of West Africa’s more stable democracies. For example, we supported the 2011 opening of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Mbour. Part of an emerging network of centres, the Institute offers advanced training in mathematics to Africa’s brightest graduates, increasing the continent’s scientific and technical expertise.

Our funded research has reduced poverty, and improved urban agriculture and education. For example, a system for tracking poverty helped local authorities design more targeted and effective programs for the poor. In the Tivaouane district, a new nutrition program for children and expectant mothers addresses needs identified by a survey.

Urban agriculture

Many studies in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, have demonstrated the vital role of farming within the city — especially important for local authorities. Urban farming in Dakar helps feed residents, provide jobs, and lets the city better manage its garbage and wastewater.   In addition, one of our research grantees showed city residents how to treat wastewater with an aquatic plant. Treated water can then be safely used to irrigate gardens. The United Nations human settlement program, HABITAT, listed this innovation as a “best practice,” and the World Bank integrated it in its programs.

Information technology for improved learning

Research supported by Canadian experts piloted a project on the use of information technology in a Dakar school. The project improved students’ reading and writing ability, and rapport between teachers and students. The experiment showed that information technology in the classroom encourages greater student independence and leads to better academic results. The project’s success led the Senegalese Education Ministry to use digital technology as a principal strategy to improve the quality of teaching and learning throughout the country.

Total IDRC Support

429 activities worth CAD71.5 million since 1972

Senegal mother touching her child.
Hewlett Foundation / J.Torgovnik

Our support is helping

  • improve research quality in Senegal, and strengthen links to policy outcomes
  • understand the impacts of youth migration on rural labour markets 
  • develop strategies to deal with the tonnes of electronic and computer waste donated from other countries   
  • determine why laws, strategies, and systems to protect women from violence are not working, and offer recommendations
  • find solutions for climate change flooding in Dakar’s out-of-control urban sprawl
  • support anti-smoking campaigns using higher taxes as disincentives

Dakar, Senegal

Immeuble 2K Plaza, route des Almadies,
P.O. Box 25121 CP10700 Dakar Fann, Senegal

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