This paper provides a synthesis of priority thematic areas of interest for research undertakings designed and implemented by university-based research teams in collaboration with stakeholders. The data for this synthesis are derived from two Competitive Grant Systems (CGS) that target support to enhance university research and training, namely, the competitive grants awarded by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture CGS and the projects under the African Centers of Excellence (ACE II) which is supported by the World Bank in partnership with respective African National Governments. Both granting facilities are intended to build capacity of the main beneficiary that is, universities to enhance their contribution to socio-economic development. The grants awarded are intended to generate knowledge and which through institutionalization of organizational structures and uptake pathways is envisaged to promote community engagement and outreach to end-users. The synthesis of thematic areas implemented and on-going indicates evidence that research teams at universities in Africa are engaged in efforts to generate solutions to address emerging and re-emerging global challenges (e.g., Natural Resources Management, Climate Change, Food and Nutrition Security). The establishment of ACEs is an opportunity to strengthen partnerships in higher education. The thematic research areas identified by stakeholders but not supported through on-going efforts and/ or require more support should serve as leverage points for soliciting resources and designing research for development actions. These efforts should result in building and/ or strengthening research culture - this ranges from trying to build a culture where there is none, to strengthening the existing culture.
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RUFORUM Working document series