How can we increase global surgery and collaboration with Africa


I’m thrilled to share insights from our recent publication, “Catalysing global surgery: a meta-research study on factors affecting surgical research collaborations with Africa.” The study was published in BMC Systematic Reviews and is a testament to my passion for enhancing global surgical collaboration, particularly with African institutions.

The backdrop of our study is the stark realization that, despite the immense potential within Africa for impactful surgical research, collaborations between African institutions and their international counterparts have been limited. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the critical need for swift, collaborative research and intervention across borders. Through our meta-research, we aimed to dissect the elements that either facilitate or hinder these essential collaborative efforts in surgical research.

Our findings underscore a significant inclination towards collaboration with European institutions, revealing a rich potential yet to be fully explored within intra-African and Africa-Asia research partnerships. Notably, despite logistical and infrastructural challenges, a diverse range of African countries, spanning all regions, are actively participating in surgical research collaborations. This participation is not merely a step towards bridging the knowledge gap, but a strategic move to leverage the unique insights and experiences that African institutions bring to the global health discourse.

We identified several key facilitators and challenges to these collaborations. Structurally, well-defined terms of reference, a central management team, and clear goal setting emerged as pivotal. However, achieving consensus and maintaining equitable representation, especially for Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), remains a challenge. Technology and communication stand out as double-edged swords; while they offer innovative platforms for collaboration, disparities in access to these technologies can exclude potential contributors. Financial resources, or the lack thereof, significantly impact the ability of African researchers to engage fully in these partnerships. Moreover, our study underscores the critical role of ethical considerations and the need for equitable recognition of contributions across all collaborators.

Reflecting on our journey, this paper is not just a narrative of current practices but a call to action. It is an invitation to the global research community to engage more deeply with African institutions, to recognize the untapped potential within these collaborations, and to work towards a more inclusive, equitable, and effective research ecosystem.

As our study illuminates, the path forward requires a concerted effort to address the systemic barriers to collaboration. It calls for innovative strategies to leverage technology, improve funding mechanisms, and, most importantly, ensure that all voices are heard and valued equally in the pursuit of advancing global surgical care. In closing, I extend my gratitude to my co-authors and all the researchers whose work we analyzed. I would like to thank Springer Nature for granting us a full fee waiver, without which our research & voice would not have had a platform to be heard. Together, we are not just documenting challenges but paving the way for a future where collaborative surgical research can thrive, driven by a shared commitment to improving healthcare outcomes globally.

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