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Apply for PIRA Grants: Funding for Innovative Research Partnerships in Africa

The Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) is inviting proposals for its Partnerships for Innovative Research in Africa (PIRA) strategic funding program. AAP is a consortium comprising ten leading African universities, a distinguished research network for African research institutes, and Michigan State University. PIRA is designed to foster and support multidirectional, collaborative research partnerships at various stages of development, whether they are new initiatives or scaling existing relationships.

Key Features of PIRA Grants

One of the unique aspects of PIRA grants is the emphasis on establishing and maintaining fair and equitable partnerships from the project’s conception to its completion. Organizations are expected to involve local stakeholders throughout the project, respecting their knowledge and expertise and adapting to the local context. Proposals should clearly outline the processes to establish such partnerships, ensuring that fair and equitable partnerships are also maintained among consortium members if multiple organizations are involved.

Scope of Proposals

Proposals may include a range of activities such as cooperative research, capacity-building initiatives, and outreach, aligning with AAP’s pillars: building bridges, transforming institutions, and transforming lives. They must address at least one of AAP’s priority areas:

  • Agri-food systems
  • Water, energy, and environment
  • Culture and society
  • Youth empowerment
  • Education
  • Health and nutrition
  • Science, technology, and innovation

Eligibility Criteria

The lead investigators must be from Michigan State University (MSU) and at least one African AAP member university. Proposals may also include partners from other global institutions, and teams are encouraged to include participants from the private sector, governments, civil society organizations, and pan-African/global institutions. However, individuals who were principal investigators or co-principal investigators on grants from the previous PIRA round or AAP’s strategic partnership grants are not eligible to lead new proposals but may participate as team members. Additionally, MSU International Studies and Programs (ISP) staff are not eligible to lead proposals.

Funding Tiers

The tiered funding structure supports partnerships at different maturity stages to strengthen relationships among institutions and act as a catalyst for securing long-term external funding.

  • Planning Grants (up to $50,000): For inception and early-stage partnership activities, including travel for joint proposal development, short-term capacity-building training, network development, and research symposia.
  • Scaling Grants (up to $100,000): For ongoing partnerships with the potential to significantly scale research, capacity-building, or outreach activities and broader institutional linkages.

Proposal Requirements

Proposals must include:

  1. Cover Sheet: Project title, names, institutional affiliations, titles of all principal investigators, and a brief project summary (about 100 words).
  2. Proposal Narrative (up to 5,000 words): Including:
    • A description of the partnership with capacity statements from each partner institution, outlining their strengths and responsibilities.
    • A brief description of past or ongoing partnerships, if applicable.
    • The rationale for the partnership and evidence of equitable, sustainable, and mutually beneficial partnerships.
    • A problem statement identifying shared challenges, the theory of change, and relevance to AAP’s themes and pillars.
    • Clearly defined objectives and a logical framework connecting activities with intended outputs and outcomes.
    • A timeline of activities.
    • A monitoring, evaluating, and learning (MEL) plan outlining proposed indicators and collection methods.
    • Identification of potential additional funding sources.
  3. Budget and Budget Narrative: Using the provided template, detailing the overall budget and equitable distribution of funds among institutions.
  4. Letters of Support: From each partner’s department or organization, and a CV or resume (1-page max) for each principal investigator.
  5. Dean’s or Department Head’s Letter of Support: For each PI, indicating institutional buy-in.

Selection Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on:

  • Evidence of collaborative and equitable partnerships.
  • Alignment with AAP’s pillars and priority areas.
  • Potential contribution to academic, technical, or technological fields.
  • Innovative models of community engagement and development.
  • Potential to attract additional external funding.
  • A thorough MEL plan linking activities to intended outcomes.
  • Integration of gender, equity, and inclusion principles.

Budget Considerations

  • Communication and Engagement: At least 10% of the total requested funds must be allocated for communication and engagement efforts.
  • Cost Share: At least 10% of the total requested funds must be matched by contributions (monetary or in-kind) from all partners.
  • Ineligible Expenses: Regular salaries of MSU faculty (summer salary is allowable), indirect costs, equipment over $5,000, and construction-related costs. Total project salary and fringe benefits cannot exceed 30% of the total combined project budget.

Submission and Timeline

Full proposal packages must be submitted via the application portal by Wednesday, August 14 at 11:59 PM EST. Awards will be announced by early October, with the plan and budget finalized by November 20, 2024. Programs must begin by January 22, 2025, and all activities must be completed within 18 months. Regular progress reports will be required.

For more information or to find a potential partner across the AAP consortium, complete the interest form and explore AAP Bridge.


If you are interested in finding a potential partner across the AAP consortium, please complete an interest form


The PIRA strategic funding program represents an opportunity to advance innovative research in Africa through equitable and collaborative partnerships. By aligning with AAP’s strategic pillars and priority areas, these grants aim to make a significant impact on African institutions and communities.

Cite this article as (APA format):

AR Managing Editor (2024). Apply for PIRA Grants: Funding for Innovative Research Partnerships in Africa. Retrieved from


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