Request for Collaborative Research Fund Proposals (RFPs) in the application of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Agriculture and Health Service Delivery in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Call Opening Date: 13th July, 2023

Call Closing Date: 14th August, 2023

1.0       BACKGROUND

The National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) of the Republic of Malawi, the National Science and Technology Council of Zambia (NSTC) and the Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ) are participating in the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) Phase II-plus. During this phase, NCST, NSTC and RCZ are jointly administering a Grant aimed at managing collaborative research calls in the application of artificial intelligence in agriculture and health service delivery in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The collaborative research call will be funded by the African Centre for Technology Studies.

Under this collaborative agreement, NCST, NSTC and RCZ aim to strengthen research collaborations between researchers in the three countries on application of artificial intelligence in agriculture and delivery of health services. It is the vision of this joint collaboration to strengthen the sustainability of health and agricultural systems through artificial intelligence in pursuance of sustainable economies and societies.


In a bid to promote the utilisation of emerging technologies in the socio-economic development of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe there is need to leverage these technologies on our existing capacities so as to improve livelihoods. Research collaborations on artificial intelligence in health and agriculture can drive innovation, solve real-world challenges, and bridge the gap between research and implementation. In that regard, the contribution of artificial intelligence in generating sectoral and organizational efficacies and efficiencies is key to developing nations which seek immediate solutions their health and agriculture systems. By bringing together experts from various national boundaries, diverging fields and involving industry stakeholders from the three countries in the research process, it is envisaged that this programme can develop more effective and practical artificial intelligence based solutions that have the potential to transform the health and agriculture sectors of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Researchers in the area of artificial intelligence directed to health and agriculture in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe will collaborate to prepare trilateral research proposals focusing on artificial intelligence application either in health systems or agriculture. Project proposals submitted under this call may include, but are not limited to, the following research areas:

  • Value addition and precision farming;
  • Yield production improvements;
  • Nutrition Research;
  • Microbial Research;
  • Medical imaging and diagnostics;
  • Precision medicine;
  • Healthcare operations and management; and
  • Drug discovery and development.


It is expected that interventions of the projects will improve the utilization of emergent technologies in the above stated areas of health and agriculture sectors of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Projects should also aim within their proposed duration to enhance the capacity of researchers and relevant sectors in the practicability of artificial intelligence.


The budget limit for project activities in the proposal will be not more than the local equivalent of USD 45,000.00for the research team in Malawi and Zambia, while in Zimbabwe the budget limit for project activities will be USD 45,000.00. Budget modalities will include three separate budgets, one for each team representative of their respective countries. Collaborative research projects will be implemented for a period not exceeding nineteen months (19 months) from 2nd October 2023 to 31st July, 2025. Permissible budget items include the following:

  • Material costs, if they are directly linked to the research project, in particular, material of enduring value, the cost of expendable items, field expenses, travel expenses or third party charges;
  • Direct costs incurred through the use of research infrastructure linked to the research;
  • Costs of organizing conferences and workshops in connection with the funded research; and
  • Costs of national and international cooperation and networking activities directly associated with the funded research.

Cost limits for the different research activity categories will include the following percentage of the budget.

  • Research costs 65%;
  • Equipment 15%;
  • Personnel costs 8%;
  • Travel & Subsistence costs 2%;
  • Workshop costs 2%;
  • Konowledge sharing and Research Uptake 5%;
  • Other goods and services 2%; and
  • Matching support costs 1%.

Note:   Salaries of applicants are not eligible costs, however, man-hours for research activities like lab tasks or participant interviewing are eligible under personnel costs.


  1. Each proposal must have one Principal Investigator from each country as a main applicant and should be based in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The three Principal Investigators will bear the overall responsibility for the projects, including its technical and administrative co-ordination as well as the timely delivery of scientific and financial reports for each country.
  1. Applications are open to bona-fide researchers from public research and higher learning institutions in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Researchers from the Private Sector and Non-profit Organizations registered in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are also eligible to apply but in collaboration with researchers in public research or higher learning institutions in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  1. Support letters from the Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe host institutions of the Principal Investigators are a prerequisite. Proposals without institutional approval through support letters will not be considered.
  1. The Grant will fund only Applied Research project in the listed thematic areas in each country. Research proposals must demonstrate the application of scientific principles or basic scientific discoveries to solve real life challenges. Basic or purely theoretical research will not be considered.
  1. Project teams may include a PhD candidate. The Grant will provide financial support for the PhD candidate on the project team in their data collection phase only
  1. Principal Investigators from Higher Education and Learning (HELs) institutions, Health Institutions and Agriculture Research Institutions in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are eligible to participate in the call. Private sector and other entities can participate as collaborators.
  1. Malawian, Zambian and Zimbabwean Principal Investigators at the point of application must fulfil the following requirements:
  2. Hold a primary appointment in a local publicly funded institution (Minimum of 12 months’ employment with a local institution in Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe);
  3. Have done previous research in artificial intelligence applied to health and agriculture and have some results published;
  4. Be a Principal Investigator with a track record of leadership ability in co-ordinating research programmes; 
  5. Providing mentorship to research teams, as well as having productive research outcomes; and
  6. Should ensure project team composition is inclusive of women and young career researchers.


These guidelines are provided to researchers to develop proposals for possible funding in artificial intelligence applicability in agriculture and health within the above-mentioned thematic areas. Failure to adhere to these guidelines would result in the disqualification of the proposal. Submission of a research proposal does not guarantee funding.

A multi-disciplinary inter-institutional group of scientists from the three countries and from the region with skills and experience in artificial intelligence will be appointed as an independent panel of reviewers. These reviewers may also be called upon to contribute to the assessment of the progress and performance of funded projects. The review process will be be two staged, the first stage will be revuew by external experts and the second stage will be by the Joint Research Management Committee.

Research projects that show potential for high impact at grass root within the project time line at a reasonable cost will be given high priority. Projects that emphasise technology identification and generation, packaging and dissemination for immediate impact on investment and productivity are encouraged. The applicants are requested to use Times New Roman font, size 12, 1.5-line spacing using the Research Proposal Template (Annexure 1).


1.Cross-cutting considerations

The proposal should demonstrate how gender equality and inclusivity, public-private partnerships, risk management and intellectual property issues will be addressed in the project.  The researchers to also briefly indicate the sustainability plans of their projects after completion of the funding. Submissions of research projects led by women Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged.

2. Results and Dissemination

Applicants should clearly define the major outputs expected from the research project and describe how the research findings will be disseminated or used. Who are the target audience/ beneficiaries? How will the findings be used to influence policy and practice?  What media engagements plans are envisaged? Indicate how open access will be fostered. Relate the specific dissemination method/approach to the target audience and briefly explain the rationale for the choice of the approach.

3. Team composition from applicant organizations

All individuals who make a significant contribution to the intellectual direction of the research, and who may have some responsibility for financial aspects of the project should be listed. Team members from applicant organisations should be included. It is important to include the field of expertise of each individual, as well as the percentage of their professional time committed to the project. Do not include CVs of the entire research team, but include a one or two paged CV for the Principal Investigators. Letters of support from the institutions of the PI should be included.

4. Budget

This should include an explanation and justification for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet. The maximum budget is as stated in section 5.0 above. Presentation of detailed budgets is a must. Any personnel costs should include a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of key researchers and percentage of time devoted to the project. The research grant will not cover salaries for the project team members. All rates to be used for the budgeting purpose are the ones acceptable by the respective institutions of the Principal Investigators hosting the projects.  Some of the project downstream budgetary items could include the following:

  • Research specific costs including cost of equipment;
  • Costs associated with human resources;
  • Capacity building e.g. postgraduate;
  • International and local travel;
  • Monitoring and evaluation; and
  • Dissemination of research results.

Briefly explain how the project will be governed. What is the composition of the research team, their qualifications and specific roles in the proposed project?  Describe how any partnership is planned with other universities/ research institutes? How will the private sector or beneficiaries be involved in the design/management/execution of the project? What is the role of the university’s/institute’s management (if any) and how might this governance structure influence the success of the programme?

Provide a chart of key activities, timelines and key milestones.

5. Monitoring and Evaluation

ACTS, NCST, NSTC and RCZ will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation. Successful applicants will be provided with Reporting Templates to aide monitoring and evaluation.

6.Ethical clearance

Where the project involves human participants and animal subjects, the Principal Investigator in the respective country shall obtain ethical clearance from an appropriate NCST, NSTC and RCZ designated research ethics committee before any grant disbursement and implementation of the project. NCST, NSTC and RCZ will also ensure that the ethically cleared research projects have been inspected for ethical compliance in the field besides the ordinary monitoring and evaluation.


The mode of application and submission of the full application package (i.e with all the required attachments) shall primarily be through the web-based online grants management system of both NCST at; RCZ at and NSTC at Application packages submitted via email will NOT be accepted under this Grant scheme.

The deadline for submission is 14th August, 2023 at 17:00 Central Africa Time. Application documents uploaded on the Online Grant Management System must include full proposal; project team CVs; work plan; and budget. All attachments must be in PDF.

  1. Proposal attachments uploaded to the Online Grants Management System should not exceed fifteen (15) pages, using 1.5 spacing and font size 12 Times New Roman (Refer to the proposal template available on the relevant Online Grant Management System for other details).
  2. All proposals will be received and processed in strict confidentiality and with complete acknowledgment of Intellectual Property Rights of the applicants.
  3. Proposals will be screened for completeness by both NCST, NSTC and RCZ before a rigorous review by an independent panel of reviewers.
  4. Evaluation, selection, approval and communication to successful applicants by respective Boards of NCST, NSTC and RCZ will be by 31st August 2023.
  5. NCST, NSTC and RCZ’s decisions will be final.


Any enquiries from Malawi researchers should be directed to Mr Kondwani Gondwe at Enquiries from Zimbabwe researchers should be sent to Ms Zolisa Gumede at .Enquiries from Zambia should be sent to Atridah Mulonga on


  • Application period commences on the 13th July 2023.
  • The deadline for submission of Full Proposals is the 14th of August 2023 at 1700 hours CTA
  • Evaluation of detailed proposals: 15th of August 2023 to 15th September 2023
  • Deliberation / proclamation of results: 21st September 2023 to 22nd September 2023
  • Award notification to the winners: 21st September 2023 to 23rd September 2023
  • Signing of grant contracts: 25th September 2023 to 27th September 2023
  • Initial disbursement of the approved budget: 28th September 2023 to 29th September 2023
  • Funded research projects will be implemented over a period of two years from 2 October 2023 until July 2025
  • Final report: 28th August 2025
  • Project Financial Audit: 30 September 2025