Improving ethics review systems in Africa is undeniably important. But this does not mean simply copying the review system in the United States.
In this Bioethics Forum article, Carl H. Coleman and Marie-Charlotte Bouësseau of the Networking for Ethics on Biomedical Research in Africa project argue that such a system would not serve the most pressing needs of Africans.
They say that independent committees at the institutional level would not be cost-effective, and would have less authority than central, government-run committees.
In addition, while US ethics committees are often most concerned with the ethical issues of individual projects, African committees would have to consider the bigger picture, as they would be responsible for determining research priorities.
African ethics committees would also have to ensure that research funders meet their obligations to provide benefits for study participants and their communities.
Lastly, not all of the processes used by US institutional review boards are appropriate in Africa. The authors point to written consent forms, signed by individuals, as an example. They say an African consent process may need to include families and communities, and reconsider written forms.