South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) in partnership with the  Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI), South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Fonds de Recherche du Québec (FRQ), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Newton Fund, and SGCI participating councils across 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are pleased to announce the COVID-19 Africa Rapid Grant Fund.

The Rapid Grant Fund seeks to:

  • Contribute to the African regional and continental response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Support knowledge generation and translation to inform diagnostics, prevention and treatment of COVID19 on the continent.
  • Strengthen African regional and continental science engagement efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Leverage existing, strong multilateral collaborations in support of Africa’s consolidated response to the COVID-19 pandemic and attract new collaborations from international partners.


The Rapid Grant Fund supports three strands in respect of research and science engagement:

  • Research
  • Science engagement: call to science and health journalists and communicators, and
  • Science engagement: call to science advisers.


  • Researchers and science engagement practitioners from the following countries are eligible to apply: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and in the context of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Nigeria and South Africa. For the research strand and applicable only to Nigeria and South Africa, only ARUA member universities will be eligible to participate. For the two strands on science engagement, practitioners across all the countries, including Nigeria and South Africa may apply.
  • Applications from women applicants, people living with disabilities and first responders to COVID-19, as principal investigators are encouraged.
  • In addition, diversity, including sex and gender differences, exist across all COVID-19 dimensions. Research and science engagement proposals must demonstrate considerations of diversity, including sex as a biological variable and gender as a socio-cultural factor in research projects and in science engagement approaches.


  • The Rapid Grant Fund is administered by the NRF South Africa, and has initial total funding of up to USD4.75million, with scope for additional funding from international funders and some SGCs.

Selection Criteria.

Funding decisions in the three strands will be made in consideration of the following:

  • Peer review and evaluation outcome
  • Geographical and linguistic balance
  • Gender and diversity considerations (diversity in distribution of funds considering women applicants, people living with disabilities and first responders to COVID-19, as principal investigators). Diversity in teams and in proposed content/approach will be taken into consideration as part of (a) above.
  • The Rapid Grant Fund will be allocated as follows across the three strands:
    • Research Strand (70% of Fund)
    • Science engagement: Call to science and health journalists and communicators (20% of Fund)
    • Science engagement: Call to science advisers (10% of Fund)

How to Apply

  • Applications should be submitted in English or French.
  • Incomplete applications and applications received after the closing date will not be considered for funding.
  • Only one application per PI can be submitted across all three strands, i.e. a PI cannot apply to more than one strand.