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A US$600,000 grant to the science and technology office of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) will help improve the advice it gives to the African Union and the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology.

The grant was approved last week (12 October) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Hassan Abdel Aal Moawad, of the National Research Center in Cairo, Egypt, told SciDev.Net that the grant will help Africa manage its scientific knowledge "by producing locally-prepared and African needs-oriented scientific studies, which the African continent is in an urgent need of".

Moawad, who is a former president of Alexandria's Mubarak City for Scientific Research and Technology Applications, added that he hopes this grant will develop into a long-term funding commitment.

John Mugabe, head of the NEPAD office of science and technology, said:  "This grant will enable us to carry out a set of activities over a period of six months so as to prepare comprehensive studies and develop proposals for long-term funding".

Speaking in Washington DC at the second annual meeting of the Grand Challenges in Global Health Programme of the Gates Foundation, Mugabe emphasised the importance of building strong foundations for science institutions in Africa.

"Confronting Africa's health challenges and securing this millennium's technological opportunities require sustained investments in the production and use of scientific knowledge."

The Gates Foundation plans to work with NEPAD to develop regional regulatory frameworks for clinical trials, strengthen the participation of African universities in international science programmes, increase the involvement of the diaspora in the implementation of African technology projects, and strengthen African political leadership for science and technology.