Skip to main content
Centres of Excellence

Africa Centre of Excellence for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), at the University of Ghana (ACE-NCDs)

The Africa Centre of Excellence for Non-communicable Diseases (ACE-NCDs) is an interdisciplinary centre, based at the University of Ghana, that aims to address Africa’s complex burden of NCDs through interdisciplinary research.

The rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) threatens to roll back the progress that has been made in health and development of Africa, especially among the young people (adolescents and youth). This is especially significant given that Africa has the World’s youngest population, and a rapidly expanding adolescent and youth population, estimated at 360 million, with about 120 million or 1/3 between 10-14 years. Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in 2008, there were 36 million deaths from NCDs, projected to rise to 50 million by 2050. In 2008, these deaths were mainly from cardiovascular diseases (48%), cancers (21%), chronic respiratory diseases (12%) and diabetes (3.5%), with 80% of all the deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries (1).

In Sub-Saharan Africa, WHO estimates that 23% of all deaths are from NCDs, and projected to grow to 27% by 2020 (2). What is however not clear, due to lack of data from the continent, is the distribution of among the key NCDs. The rise in NCDs in Africa places a tremendous social and economic burden on communities through increased absenteeism, job loss, unaffordable medical costs, increased responsibilities from family members for care- giving, or complete loss of income from death of the breadwinner (3). The loss of income (partial or complete) pushes low income households further into the poverty trap (4).

On a broader scale, the combined effect of decreased labour outputs, lower return on human capital investments, increased healthcare costs, and loss of economic activity, leads to increasing inequalities not only within populations, but between countries (5). It is widely acknowledged that the four common NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – have four shared behavioural risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol use. These are in conjunction with other conditions including mental disorders, disabilities (including blindness and deafness), violence and injuries. To achieve a reduction in the levels of NCDs, there must be a concerted effort to bring about behaviour change through evidence-based approaches by conducting localised research and training on prevention and control of NCDs, and their translation into practice (6).

Aims and Objectives.

The ARUA Centre of Excellence on NCDs (ACE-NCDs) provides a platform for the creation of a long-term strategic network of researchers in African Universities through a hub and spoke model to strengthen intra-African collaboration and collaboration between the network and the rest of the world. The ACE-NCD builds on the strengths of the core university members, University of Nairobi (Kenya and the Hub), University of Ghana, University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Makerere University (Uganda) and the University of the Witwatersrand (S. Africa).

In addition, the ACE-NCD continues to bring on board relevant stakeholders involved in prevention, control and management of NCDs within their regions including medical research institutions, relevant professionals, policy-makers, civil society to ensure co-design and co-production of high impact research output that shall be support policy- making, interventions, and commercialisable intellectual property. Continental and regional teams are supported to develop winning grant proposals around the agreed upon ACE-NCD thematic areas, thus ensuring sustainability and growth of the ACE-NCD.

ACE-NCD’s Vision is to become a vibrant, sustainable ACE-NCD at the forefront of NCD research, capacity-building and policy-making support in Africa.

  1. WHO (2013), Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, 2013- 2020.
  2. ibid.
  3. Naik, R. and Kaneda, T. (2015), Non-communicable Diseases in Africa: Youth are the Key to Curbing the Epidemic and Achieving Sustainable Development, Population Reference Bureau.
  4. Juma, P. et al. (2018), Non-communicable disease prevention policy process in five African countries, BMC Public Health, 18 (Suppl 1):961
  5. WHO (2013), op. cit.
  6. WHO (2013), op. cit.