Though more than half of the burden of NTDs is focused in Africa, involvement of African entities in research and advocacy has been more limited, at least in part due to the paucity of opportunities for young scientists to lead research projects. To achieve elimination and control targets, local stakeholders need to understand why challenges persist, before they can determine the most appropriate interventions and approaches to address them. Efforts are needed, then, to bridge the gap between the needs of national NTD programs and local research teams. While the former group is most familiar with the programmatic issues, the latter group is best placed to translate problems into research questions, and to design appropriate studies to efficiently answer these questions. As such, coordination between the two presents an effective platform for NTD control and elimination in the African subregion most burdened by these diseases. Addressing this critical challenge is one of the goals of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, or ARNTD (https://arntd.org/).
Building capacity in young researchers represents a promising solution to retaining skilled researchers in the fight against NTDs and to ensure impactful results for NTD control programs. The African Researchers' Small Grants Program, funded through COR-NTD, was designed to fulfill this aim. Launched in 2017, the African Researchers’ Small Grants Program provides research funding to individual researchers based on the African continent. With this funding, they can develop solutions to the problems posed by NTDs in their home countries. Since its launch in 2017, and with generous support from USAID and UK aid, the African Researchers’ Small Grants Program has provided more than $1.5 million in research funds to 66 researchers from 16 countries. This relatively modest investment has catalyzed improvements to the efforts to eliminate NTDs in Africa.