Research community blog to be unveiled at UNESCO-MARS summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Merck, a global science and technology company has joined hands with UNESCO, African Union, Ethiopia Ministry of Health, University of Cambridge and Institute Pasteur International to empower women in research, build research capacity in Francophone and Anglophone Africa to improve women health in the continent during the 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit – MARS 2016 (UNESCO-MARS).

Infectious diseases and women health and empowering women in research will be the focus of the 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit – MARS 2016 to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from November 28 – 29, 2016.

The UNESCO – MARS 2016 will be inaugurated by Mr Getchaw Engida, Deputy Director-General, UNESCO; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister for Health, Ethiopia, and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG.

UNESCO – MARS 2016 will bring together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

UNESCO – MARS 2016 has attracted 15 African ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology and Gender & Social Development to participate in two ministerial high level panels on: “defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa” and “research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific information,” emphasized Rasha Kelej, Chief Social officer, Merck Healthcare.

“The theme of the Summit Infectious diseases and women health is informed by the fact that for many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and have a more severe course of illness than men for many reasons including biological differences, social inequities, and restrictive cultural norms. Therefore, efforts to recognize and reduce health disparities among women have particular relevance for global health,” Rasha Kelej emphasized.

“The Summit will focus on the relation between infectious diseases and cancer in women, untreated infectious diseases and the high prevalence of infertility in Africa,” Rasha Kelej added.

It will also aim to identify the scientific research priorities for evolving health needs to address infectious diseases such as; Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Zika in relation to women heath.

On the second day of UNESCO – MARS 2016, Merck online research community blog will be launched to enable young researchers to exchange experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond.

Empowering Africa Women in Research

Of the 200 researchers attending the Summit 60% are women. This is contributing to one of the main objectives of UNESCO-MARS which is; empowering women who in research.

“In addition, the UNESCO – MARS 2016  will launch for the first time the ‘Best African Woman Research Awards’ to recognize the outstanding contribution of African women researchers and scientists with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics),” Rasha Kelej said.

Merck Africa Research Summit – MARS Awards 2016

During the Summit, Young African Researchers who have submitted outstanding abstracts will be recognised. The first three young African Researchers will be eligible for a number of research awards, while a further research awards will be dedicated for the ‘Best African Women Researchers’.

Key African Ministers to attend Summit to participate in Ministerial Panels:

This year’s Summit has attracted 15 African Ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology; Gender and Social Development to participate in two ministerial high level panels.

The first ministerial high level panel that will focus on “Defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa”, will involve: Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health, Niger; Dr. Ashraf ElShihy, Minister of Higher Education and State for Scientific Research, Egypt; Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social  Development, Liberia; Filiga Michel Sawadogo, Minister of Education & Science, Burkina Faso; Jesús Engonga Ndong, Minister of Education & Science, Equatorial Guinea and Prof. Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG.

The second ministerial panel on ‘Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific information and will include:  Assane Ngueadoum, Minister of Health, Chad; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health, Nigeria; Marie Madaleine Togo, Minister of Health, Mali; Octave Nicoué Broohm Minister of Education, Togo; Léon N’zouba, Minister of Health, Gabon; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola and Zuliatu Cooper Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone.

The Summit will also be addressed by HRH Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite, the Founder of the World Women’s Health and Development Forum who will speak on “Role of women in life science and medical research in addressing the SDGs.”

Summit addressing Francophone Africa for the first time

This is the first time that the UNESCO – MARS summit is addressing Francophone Africa. It has attracted over 150 researchers from over 25 English and French speaking countries. These include researchers from Francophone countries such as Senegal, Rwanda, Gabon, Benin, Congo, Cameroon, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Niger, Burundi and Anglophone countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, Botswana and Ethiopia.

The 2nd UNESCO – MARS Summit is a unique opportunity for Africa’s young and talented scientists to share their research output and findings with the top echelon of scientists from Africa and abroad. It is also an opportunity for networking and career development. The Summit will present a platform where young scientists will be able to discuss the enabling environment for better research among others.


During the 2015 Summit, several participants were recognized and awarded for excellence in research, in which, two scientists were awarded six-month fellowships in Merck’s Biotechnology R&D hub in Germany.

The first award of a six month fellowship at the Merck R&D hub was granted to Benard Kulohoma, Kenya and Rebecca Chukwuanukwu, Nigeria. Both of them have actively contributed towards the preparation of the 2ndUNESCO – MARS 2016.

The first UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2015 was successfully organized and held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2015 with the focus on emergent infectious diseases such as Ebola.


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