The AREF-CAN-PRECISE-RECAP Towards Leadership Programme                         

The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) is delighted to announce the launch of the Towards Leadership Researcher and Leadership Development Programme in partnership with three Networks funded through the UK Global Challenges Research Fund.  These Networks are:

• The Crick African Network – click here
• The PRECISE Network – click here
• The RECAP Network – click here



The aim of the AREF Towards Leadership programme is to support the research capacity strengthening strategies of the three partner Networks.  Together we are investing in talented African scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa, enhancing their global health research and leadership potential.

In this first, pilot, year, AREF will deliver three residential workshops and complementary on-line learning for about 12 individual researchers selected by the three networks.

The curriculum is designed to support engage and enhance the participants’ own capabilities.  The programme is directed towards to winning grant funding, empowering effective teams, collaborating internationally, influencing stakeholders and building rewarding research careers.



Programme outline

The Programme comprises the following elements:

  • Three inspiring and practical residential 3-day workshops at quarterly intervals
  • Supplementary webinars, tutorials and on-line resources
  • Baseline and end-of-programme assessments and evaluation
  • Cooperation between participating individuals and institutions

The Programme has the following themes:

  • The effective researcher
  • The researcher as leader
  • The compelling applicant
  • The researcher as manager
  • The researcher as communicator

The five themes will be integrated across the three workshops.  The balance of the curriculum will be determined by the particular participants’ needs.

The costs of the workshops and associated by accommodation and travel of selected nominees will be met by the participating networks and AREF.


Key events

The timetable for all Towards Leadership participants is as follows:

Five PRECISE researchers participated in the Towards Leadership programme last year run by the African Research Excellence Fund, here are some thoughts from three of our fellows


Geoffrey Omuse is an Assistant Professor and Consultant Clinical Pathologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya. His main research focus is around reference intervals for common haematology and chemistry laboratory tests. He has previously done some work around antimicrobial resistance and molecular epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus. Geoffrey has a Master of Medicine degree in Clinical Pathology and is currently pursuing a PhD in Chemical Pathology.

While taking part in the leadership program, he found the sessions on how to communicate effectively very useful. He enjoyed learning about tips on assuming a power pose, voice projection, using pauses in speech to captivate an audience and how to make effective PowerPoints. He also found the sessions on stakeholder management and mentorship quite useful.

The program opened his eyes to what reviewers look for when reviewing proposals and he finds himself better informed about what he needs to lay emphasis on. He has also learnt the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches to conducting research and that funders are more likely to look favourably at a proposal that incorporates a multidisciplinary team.


Patricia Opon Okiro is an Assistant Professor of Anatomic Pathology at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi. With a background in Paediatric and Perinatal Pathology, her research interests are in placental and perinatal pathology and outcomes, as well as paediatric brain tumours and diagnostics.

While participating in the Research Leadership Development Program, she really enjoyed learning about the Personal development plan (PDP). The program taught her to be intentional and mindful of her journey as a researcher. It has also inspired her to plan her goals and milestones going forward, which has been invaluable to her.


Prestige Tatenda Makanga is a Senior Lecturer and Departmental Chair at the Surveying and Geomatics Department of Midlands State University.

He is an applied geo-information scientist with a primary interest in global health. He has a Ph.D. in Geography (GISc) from Simon Fraser University in Canada, an MSc Eng. in Geomatics from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and a BSc (Hons) in Surveying and Geomatics from the Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe. He has co-led 3 projects, including Mapping Outcomes for Mothers (MOM), RoadMApp and the health geography component of the PREgnancy Care Integrating translational Science Everywhere (PRECISE) network. For his work, he primarily utilizes geographic methods to elucidate risk and resilience factors associated with health outcomes. Much of his focus is on maternal health at the moment.

While participating in the leadership program, he enjoyed learning from the experiences of other researchers working in similar environments. This enabled him to learn how to better navigate through the inadequacies of the research infrastructure. The leadership program has prepared him for future research by firstly, isolating dedicated time to focus on strengthening his research capacity and leadership and allowing him to be reflexive and think through his career interest. Second, there are tools that he has started using for planning his career, including the Personal Development Plan. These have helped him to plan for his career and also track his progress.