Grants for Strengthening the Contraceptive R&D Ecosystem in Africa

Grants for Strengthening the Contraceptive R&D Ecosystem in Africa


Family planning is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce maternal, infant and child mortality and contributes to the empowerment of women and families, as well as to the expansion of opportunities for economic development.

In recent decades, there have been tremendous improvements in the reproductive health of women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and dramatic increases in use of modern contraception.

As of 2019, more than half of the 1.6 billion women of reproductive age (15–49 years) living in LMICs want to avoid a pregnancy so the need for contraception is great.

Globally, approximately 257 million women had an unmet need for modern contraception—that is, they want to avoid a pregnancy but were not using a modern method.

Almost half of pregnancies in LMICs—111 million annually—are unintended, with over 75% occurring among women who want to avoid a pregnancy but are not using modern contraceptives

The Challenge

This RFP seeks innovations that contribute to development of safe and effective non-hormonal contraceptives that meet the needs and interests of women and that address key barriers in accessing and using currently available methods.

We are seeking non-hormonal contraceptives that are easy to access, discreet, convenient, and non-invasive.

Additionally, it is important that these methods have tolerable side effects and do not impact the menstrual cycle.

This work will be led by Grand Challenges Africa, a program of the Science for Africa Foundation with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The ultimate goal is development of novel non-hormonal female contraceptives that 1) provide safe and effective contraception, 2) do not contain sex steroid hormones or rely on hormonal mechanisms of action (e.g., do not impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis), 3) do not disrupt endogenous menstrual bleeding patterns, and 4) are suitable and appropriate for use in LMICs.

The overall goal is to reduce the unmet need for contraception by enhancing contraceptive uptake, continuation, and satisfaction among reproductive aged adolescent girls and women who want to avoid pregnancy.

Contraceptive product innovation is required to achieve this goal.

Equally as important, is the goal to invest in local scientific capacity in LMICs in particular to build and strengthen capacity of African scientists and institutions to conduct R&D around development of novel contraceptive products.

This Grand Challenges Africa opportunity aims to expand locally led, gender-equal R&D capacity in Africa and begin to foster a thriving contraceptive R&D ecosystem on the African continent with a collaborative network of scientists working together to innovate around contraceptive R&D.

This Grand Challenges request for proposals intends to fund awards of up to USD $350,000 and for up to 2 years, based on
the scope of the proposed project.

Specifically, the Objectives of the Challenge are to:

Advance novel and bold ideas that accelerate development of new non-hormonal female contraceptive candidates aligned with women’s preferences that are currently unmet.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Formulation development or advances in materials science with application to non-hormonal female contraception

  • Pre-clinical development of non-hormonal female contraceptive candidates/leads

  • Development and/or testing of novel or optimized drug delivery systems with application to non-hormonal female contraceptives

    We Are Looking for Proposals That:

    Are led by a PI based at an African institution, including Africa-led for-profit companies based in Africa.

    Demonstrate that at least 90% of the funding is going to support one or more African institution(s).

  • Engage scientists across a variety of disciplines, including those new to the field of contraceptive R&D.

  • Enhance the research ecosystem for contraceptive R&D and strengthen the contraceptive R&D network on the African continent.

  • Demonstrate innovative thinking by applying or incorporating concepts, methods or technologies not necessarily currently being used for contraceptive R&D.

  • Present concepts and strategies that are “off the beaten track”, significantly radical in conception, and daring in premise.

  • We particularly encourage applications involving projects led by women or from women-led organizations and applications.


    This Grand Challenges request for proposals intends to fund awards of up to USD $350,000 and for up to 2 years, based on the scope of the proposed project.

    The proposed budget must realistically reflect the technical work and project deliverables within a 2-year time frame; in some cases, a smaller budget and/or shorter grant period may be justified.

    Budgets and scope may be negotiated with applicants as part of the review process to ensure the foundation’s ability to fund a robust and balanced portfolio with good geographic scope with the existing available budget.

    Application Steps

    This RFP will make use of a two-step application process:

    Step 1: Submission of a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) to Science for Africa Foundation – Grand Challenges Africa Programme through their grants management system.

    Applicant organizations submitting the LOI must fully meet the eligibility criteria.

    Please read the full guidelines to make certain that your LOI responds to the call.

    The program partners will evaluate the LOIs.

    Step 2: Eligible applicants will be required to submit a full proposal through the Grand Challenges Africa – grants management system.

    Additional guidance to successful applicants will be provided after the LOI selection process.

    How to Apply

    For more information and job application details, see: Grants for Strengthening the Contraceptive R&D Ecosystem in Africa

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