Director of Science, Technology and Innovation-International Cooperation and Resources at the Ministry of Communications, Knowledge and Technology, Mr Ronnie Phutlhego.

Director of Science, Technology and Innovation-International Cooperation and Resources at the Ministry of Communications, Knowledge and Technology, Mr Ronnie Phutlhego.

BHP and TESA delegation (right) discussing the country’s application for EDCTP Council membership at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Boardroom with the ministry officials.The Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), the country’s leading health research institute recently undertook to lobby and assist the Government of Botswana to apply for membership of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) Council.

On August 04, 2022 during the Trials of Excellence in Southern Africa (TESA) Network leadership visit to BHP, BHP Management accompanied by the TESA Project Leader, Dr Francisco Saute and TESA Project Manager & Coordinator Officer, Rodriques Matcheve met with the Director of Europe and the Americas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tebelelo Boang to discuss progress and lobby Government to expedite the process for application for EDCTP Council membership for the benefit of the country. Boang told the meeting that the assignment has now been taken up and led by the Ministry of Communications, Knowledge and Technology (MCKT).

Dr Saute explained that TESA is a consortium established in 2009 under the first programme of the EDCTP with the objective of creating a framework for collaboration, capacity building and training among nine African countries and three European countries to enable them to conduct clinical trials of excellence.

He said that one of the requirements for countries to be members of the EDCTP Council is that they have to commit to contribute a minimum amount of 200K Euros. This contribution can be either cash or in kind. He explained that in kind include direct funding of research facilities, operational costs and equipment as well as support to the secretariat.

The Director of Science, Technology and Innovation- International Cooperation and Resources at MCKT, Ronnie Phutlhego told the meeting that the Government has started the EDCTP Council application process. He revealed that the application had been escalated to cabinet due to the requirement to pay the 200K Euros. He appreciated the explanation that part of the money can be paid in kind.

BHP provided Government with the list of in-kind resources and assistance that the Botswana Government is already offering in support of BHP research as well as assisting with information on EDCTP grants which have been awarded to various institutions in Botswana. To also help fast track the application process, Dr Saute shared EDCTP regulations and template commitment letters and step-by-step guidance information on how to complete the submission process.

BHP Laboratory Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the BHP TESA III Project, Dr Sikhulile Moyo noted that BHP has held four EDCT grants from TESA I, TESA II and III, supporting at least 10 projects associated with HIV/ AIDS research. This has culminated with the graduation of four PhDs and 10 Masters as part of the capacity building component of the initiative. He highlighted that other institutions in Botswana like the University of Botswana also have EDCTP grants, remarking on the urgency to complete the application process to ensure BHP remains eligible to apply for funding.

“Rest assured that that the application shall be processed. We are committed to mobilizing resources in any form for the benefit of our country,” said Phuthego. He applauded BHP for taking the initiative and the enthusiasm to push for the application, encouraging them to always keep the authorities informed for greater assistance.

He advised that institutions should consider partnering with each other when applying for grants for similar projects in order to share resources and human capital for significant impact. He underlined that in all applications there should be a component of capacity building to build a critical mass of human resources capable to carry the work forward and build full capacity for certain critical areas.