Whilst not ordinarily making the shortlist for trials in the past, Africa is an emerging as a continent based on its size, demographics, level of economic growth, and desire to improve healthcare and life expectancy. Today, Africa represents over 1.34 billion people and it is expected to surpass two billion people by 2038 and 2.5 billion by 2050. Accounting for over 17% of the global population, representing a diverse population, and carrying the highest disease burden in the world at around 25%, the African continent offers many of the best conditions for conducting clinical trials. Importantly, several diseases – particularly those defined as neglected and tropical – are endemic to the developing world, which includes Africa. Despite all these advantages, Africa contributes to less than 2% of the number of clinical trials.
Africa’s virtual absence from the clinical trials map poses a big problem. The continent displays an incredible amount of genetic diversity. If this diversity is not well represented in clinical trials, the trial findings cannot be generalised to large populations. Genetic analyses have clearly demonstrated that ethnic groups show variable results to various treatments, hence it is imperative to conduct clinical trials in Africa, as Africa suffers more than any other continent from diseases linked to poverty, and the interventions mainly used to cure or treat these diseases from which Africans suffer are designed elsewhere.