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Research Development Fellowships

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Information for researchers

Our fellowships are awarded to African researchers who are working on addressing important challenges for human health in Africa. Fellows are placed at world-class research institutions in Africa and Europe, for three to nine-month placements, with funds up to £47,000.  

Our fellowship programme targets early career researchers, research-active post-doctoral researchers and clinicians who are nationals of, and employed in, Africa. Since 2015, we have supported 83 fellows across Africa. 

The scope of this programme includes both infectious and non-communicable diseases that are significant or have been identified as neglected in Africa. 

The RDF Programme enables talented early-career researchers to: 

  • acquire advanced research skills 
  • develop and test their own compelling research questions 
  • develop highly effective mentoring relationships 
  • grow their potential collaborations 
  • raise their profile through international networking 

What does the fellowship include? 

  • The RDF Programme supports a placement of between three to nine months for each Fellow at a leading research organisation in Europe or Africa, with time spent at either end of the placement for preparation and follow-up. The aim is to promote the development of technical skills, collaborations and networks. 
  • The maximum award for the fellowship placement is £47,000 (GB Pounds). 
  • Ongoing support of mentorship, leadership and grants is available once a Fellow transitions into the Alumni. 


To be eligible, applicants must be a national of a country in Africa. You need not be resident in Africa at the time of applying, provided that your application is officially supported by an African institution that meets the eligibility criteria for an employing institution and which attests that it intends to employ you locally. Specific information about eligibility will be published when the application round is open. 

Applications for funding typically open in June/July with a deadline in September. Fellows are expected to travel and commence their fellowships by March the following year after being awarded. 

Applicants must ensure that their Employing and intended Host Organisations (the sponsors) understand the purposes of the AREF Fellowship, how AREF will pay the organisations and what their obligations are if they accept an award. 

Read about our past fellows and their projects. 

For tips and advice on submitting a successful application, read this post which has more information about the application process. 

Learn more about what our researchers are doing and the impact they are having on African health research.  

Tips for success 

  • Applicants must articulate  
  1. a specific, important health challenge relevant to Africa 
  2. an original, potentially impactful and researchable question, and  
  3. an understanding of the pertinent research methodologies or technologies to answer that question – as well as which capabilities you intend to develop. Many applications fail to be ambitious, original or feasible – or just lack specific details. 
  • Applicants must be specific about the research they are aiming to do after the Fellowship: we ask you to define a research question and outline a strategy. 
  • Applicants must describe how planned Fellowship activities will lead towards addressing that research question and career goals. 
  • Applicants must engage as soon as possible with their home institution, so they can actively support the application. 
  • Applicants must engage early with their intended academic host and the host institution: they need time to develop the right kind of support for the Fellowship. 
  • Applicants should ensure that the costs are clearly specified and are permitted. 
  • The placement should provide an applicant with the opportunity to develop skills and networks, and it should be clear that it is not a continuation or extension of an existing activity.