£20 million research hub could help African teens achieve their full potential

TAG Sierra Leone

Teen Advisory Group Sierra Leone, photo by Inge Wessels

The UK Research and Innovation Council has announced today a long-term initiative which could significantly improve the health and life prospects of a generation of Africa’s youth.

The UKRI GCRF Accelerating Achievement for Africa’s Adolescents Hub is led by an interdisciplinary team at Oxford University and the University of Cape Town, with University partners across Africa from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to Lesotho and Tanzania. It takes the UN Development Programme’s core concept of ‘accelerators’ – policies or programs which improve multiple SDG goals or targets – one step further. Leading the team is Professor Lucie Cluver, DSPI's Professor of Child and Family Social Work.

By 2050 Africa will be home to half a billion teenagers. Despite the incredible opportunity that such a vibrant pool of young potential presents, many of these teens will already be trapped in a cycle of poverty, violence, low education and poor health, by the time they reach adolescence. This new Hub aims to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.

Researchers from Oxford’s departments of Social Policy and Intervention, Tropical Medicine, the Blavatnik School of Government, English, Economics and Psychiatry will work alongside international partners including UNDP, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, governments across Africa, donors such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR, NGOs and young people themselves, to identify and test a range of ‘accelerator synergy’ service combinations, from across health, education, social and economic sectors. In doing so, they will determine which combinations, such as malaria prevention, business skills and violence prevention, offer teenagers across Africa the best opportunities to lead better, safer lives.

The Oxford University-led project is one of 12 individual studies taking place as part of the new UKRI Global Research Hubs. The work is financially supported through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which has allocated nearly £200 million investment to the initiative - the largest single investment ever by UKRI. The GCRF funding pot is a key strand of the UK’s AID strategy, helping to put British research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Professor Cluver said: ‘We have been lucky to work for many years with governments across Africa, UN agencies and donors. They want to help their adolescents to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, but this is a major challenge with fiscal resources and shrinking global aid. This Hub aims to meet their needs: to identify what simple combinations of services are cost-effective to improve health, education, employment and safety. Africa’s adolescents deserve the best evidence and the best opportunities.'

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