Challenges of being a researcher in Africa: A narrative synthesis of literature


Background: The importance of research in the development agenda of Africa has received better recognition in recent years, with an increasing number of publications by African researchers. However, the number and quality of the research outputs are not on a par with the health problems and population size of the continent. This review was carried out with the aim of identifying the challenges researchers face in Africa. Materials and Methods: We conducted a narrative synthesis of the available literature. We searched for relevant articles on PubMed, Hinari and Google Scholar databases. We searched for additional articles from the reference lists of studies identified through the search. The date of the last search was 05 April 2018. We thematically synthesized the results in terms of individual, institutional and policy challenges. Results: We retrieved 610 articles, of which 12 were eligible for inclusion. Limited institutional research capacity, including a shortage of local funds, shortage of skilled researchers and weak infrastructure, were the prevailing challenges. A lack of technical capacity in scientific writing, including lack of English language writing skills, were the common individual-level challenges. A further finding was that research evidence generated in Africa was not generally used to inform the policy-making process. Conclusions: The challenge for researchers in Africa is primarily the weak capacity of research institutes that are not well equipped to produce the next generation of researchers. Efforts should be made to strengthen their capacity to improve the production of skilled scientists and visibility of research work in Africa. Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2019; 33(4):229-238] Key words: Scientist, research, researcher, challenge, Africa, narrative, systematic review