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Quantifying the cost of in-kind contributions to a multidonor-funded health research capacity-building programme: the case of the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa
  1. Sharon Fonn1,
  2. Jia Hu2,
  3. Jude Ofuzinim Igumbor1,
  4. Duncan Gatoto3,
  5. Adamson Muula4,
  6. Alex Ezeh1,5
  1. 1Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. 2Independent Researcher, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya
  4. 4Community Health, University of Malawi College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi
  5. 5Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sharon Fonn; sharon.fonn{at}


Introduction There are significant investments in health research capacity development in the ‘global-south’. The monetary value of contributions from institutions running these programmes is not known.

Methods Using the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) as a case study we estimate in-kind contributions made by consortium members. We measured unpaid hours of labour contributed by consortium members and converted this to full-time equivalents. We assigned a monetary value to the time contributed by staff based on salaries by seniority and region. We estimated the monetary value of the contribution made by the African institutions that hosted CARTA events by comparing the difference in cost between university-hosted events with those held in commercial venues. We calculated the foregone overhead costs associated with hosting the CARTA secretariat. We excluded many costs where data were difficult to verify.

Results Annually, CARTA member institutions committed a minimum of 4.3 full-time staff equivalents that are not funded by the grants. CARTA’s annual in-kind contribution represents at least 20% of total annual donor expenditure. African institutions accounted for 82.9% of the in-kind labour contribution and 91.6% of total in-kind contribution.

Conclusion The consortium’s institutions and academic and non-academic staff make significant contributions to ensure the effective implementation of donor-funded programmes. This is not unique to CARTA. These contributions are usually not counted, often not recognised at institutional level nor remunerated through grants. Knowing these costs would allow for sustainability appraisals and cost-benefit assessments. This paper offers a method of how to measure these contributions and begins a discussion around this.

  • public health
  • health services research

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Contributors The study was conceptualised by SF. JH conducted the analysis and participated in the interpretation of the findings. AM and DG contributed data and assisted in interpretation and decisions about data analysis. JOI contributed to the contextual background. SF and AE collectively interpreted the data and prepared the final manuscript which was reviewed by all authors who agreed to submission.

  • Funding The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) is jointly led by the African Population and Health Research Center and the University of the Witwatersrand and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York (Grant No: B 8606.R02), Sida (Grant No: 54100029) and the DELTAS Africa Initiative (Grant No: 107768/Z/15/Z). The DELTAS Africa Initiative is an independent funding scheme of the African Academy of Sciences' (AAS) Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) and supported by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency) with funding from the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the UK government. At the time of submission SF was supported by a Fulbright Senior Fellow Award at the University of Southern California, an award from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust and an Anderson Capelli fellowship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. There were no patients involved in research that underlies this paper. The public of this paper may be considered to be institutions and their staff who are members of the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa. The methods and preliminary findings of this study were presented at a CARTA annual Partners Forum meeting where they were interrogated and discussed. The Partners Forum is attended by every institution that is a member of the consortium.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement The tables generated to complete this analysis are available on request.

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