‘A West African Research Coordination Hub on the Horizon’

Representatives of the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) and those of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) met recently to discuss the possibility of setting up a hub to better coordinate USAID research activities in West Africa.

Officials of both institutions met in the Senegalese capital, Dakar on Thursday, April 11, 2019, to explore the feasibility of the proposed coordination hub which will initially focus on Ghana, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Senegal.

Present at the meeting were representatives from the USAID West Africa Regional (Accra, Ghana) and Senegal (Dakar) missions, the Sahel Regional Office (Dakar) and the Bureau for Food Security (Washington, DC).

The USAID West Africa regional mission based in Accra, Ghana supports research and development activities in these five countries. The Bureau for Food Security, based in Washington, and its web of innovation labs also work with national agricultural research systems in these five countries.

“There isn’t sufficient coordination of these activities. Our experience so far reveals that many of our interventions are functioning in silos and sometimes unconnected,” explains Dr. Jerry Glover, Senior Sustainable Agricultural Systems Advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Food Security.

“The coordination hub can address these challenges and further ensure our research is more responsive to the needs of our partners.”

While details of the hub are still being discussed, officials of both organizations envisage a center that serves as a focal point for the coordination of USAID research activities. The hub could assist in organizing activities between the USAID innovation labs already working or seeking to work in West Africa, donors, government actors, the scientific community as well as the private sector and civil society groups.

The center could also be potentially used for the marketing of technologies. With meek progress still observed in the access and use of agriculture innovations, the parties are examining the options of creating technology parks in which innovations could be showcased.

“In the initial phase, the coordination hub will focus on USAID research activities. But in keeping to CORAF’s strategic plan, the goal will be to spin off the hub to the CORAF ecosystem in the long-term,” said Dr. Abdulai Jalloh, CORAF’s Director of Research and Innovation.

CORAF and USAID have scheduled further dialogue to achieve greater consensus on the scope as well as the human and financial resources that might be needed to make the center fully operational. The overarching plan is to have the center functional by the end of 2019.

Also in attendance from USAID were Dr. Nora Lapitan, (USAID/Bureau for Food Security), Abdrahamane Dicko (USAID/West Africa Regional), Doudou Ndiaye (USAID/Senegal), and Abdoulaye Dia (USAID/Sahel Regional Office). Drs. Vara Prasad, Director, and Jan Middendorf, Associate Director, represented USAID’s Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) at Kansas State University. The Director of Research and Innovation of CORAF led a team comprising senior staff working on knowledge management, gender, partnerships, outreach, and environmental safeguard.