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[NAIROBI] Only a handful of African governments have so far pledged financial commitment to a planned US$600 million endowment fund to support the activities of the fledgling African Network for Drugs and Diagnostic Innovations (ANDI) initiative — and none have yet paid up.

ANDI aims to be the first pan-African health research and development (R&D) network, tackling Africa's diseases with home-grown drugs and diagnostics. Its vision is to strengthen health research in Africa, help scientists network, work towards a sustainable research environment, and help translate research into products.

Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Tunisia have made verbal commitments to the fund, which is supposed to provide regular funding for ANDI's R&D projects. But delegates at its 3rd stakeholders meeting and high-level forum in Kenya this week (10–15 October) heard that so far no money has materialised.

"We must waste no more time and ensure that funds start flowing immediately if we are to keep track of our set timelines," said Tom Mboya Okeyo, chair of the ANDI taskforce and Kenya's permanent representative to the WHO.

Mboya said that governments must lead the way if ANDI is to become a truly African-owned initiative.

ANDI was officially endorsed in Nigeria in 2008 by African and diaspora scientists. The WHO and the UN Economic Commission for Africa pledged support. Initial seed funding for setting ANDI up was secured from the European Commission, WHO and UN Economic Commission for Africa.

"African countries have shown enthusiasm in supporting this initiative and the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) has now fully endorsed it," said Maged Al Sherbiny Egypt's assistant minister for science and technology, and the chair of AMCOST.

He added that after the AMCOST's endorsement of ANDI earlier this year, the council was now ready to present the initiative to the African Union's heads of states and governments summit in early 2011, with an aim of getting more countries to commit funding before the end of next year.

The meeting has also discussed progress on various ANDI projects, including the creation of R&D database, which will be fully operational by the end of 2011.

So far 116 private and public health institutions from 26 countries have applied to become ANDI 'centres of excellence'.

"The desire to partner with ANDI has so far been overwhelming and reviewing of the applications will continue and results will be published before end of next year," said Solomon Nwaka, a taskforce member and representative of WHO's special programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).