Scientific Steering Committee 2019


Rasha Kelej
CEO of Merck Foundation
President of Merck More Than a Mother

Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation, President of Merck More Than a Mother, President of Merck Foundation Alumni, President of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI). She is also the Chairperson of Merck Foundation’s annual platform, the Merck Africa Asia Luminary and Chairperson of UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS).

Rasha Kelej has been recognized as one of the 
100 Most Influential Africans (2019) by New African Magazine for the poignant More Than a Mother Movement, which has touched many hearts.
Rasha Kelej was born in February 1972 in Egypt.

She holds a degree in Pharmacy from Alexandria University and an MBA from Robert Gordon University, Scotland.

Rasha Kelej has more than 25 years of experience in International Pharmaceutical Industry and Healthcare & Social Development, having joined the industry in 1994. Rasha Kelej joined Merck in 1996 where she has undertaken many leading commercial roles in addition to serving as the Chief Social Officer and Head of the Global Social Responsibility & Market Development, SVP of Merck Healthcare from 2013 until June 2017.

In this position, she developed a structured and coherent CSR strategy and introduced programs since 2013 with the aim to build healthcare capacity, raise community awareness, break the stigma of infertility and empower women & youth through education and STEM. This subsequently led to the development and formation of Merck Foundation; the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany as nonprofit organization established in 2017.

Rasha Kelej has developed many impactful programs such as Merck Capacity Advancement Program, Merck Cancer Access Program, Merck More Than A Mother, Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) and Merck STEM for women and youth. These programs are focused on building healthcare capacity and improving access to health in Africa and developing countries.

One of the most successful programs that she created and presided is the historic campaign “Merck More Than a Mother” and its innovative initiatives which aims to empower childless and infertile women through access to information, health, change of mind set and economic empowerment.

She is working closely with 18 African First Ladies as Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” in their countries, to break the stigma around infertility and empower infertile women.

Some of the initiatives of “Merck More Than a Mother” include Health Media Training, Media Recognition Awards, Fashion Awards and Film Awards. She is also working closely with local artists to develop local songs to break the stigma of infertility in their communities. More than 18 songs have been developed so far.

She has successfully established strong partnerships with African First Ladies, Governments, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education, Information & Communication, Academia, Global & Local Societies, media, art and not for profits organizations which has contributed significantly to the success of their programs.

Rasha Kelej has received many awards for her contribution towards advancing healthcare capacity and women empowerment from African Governments & First Ladies as well as from the International Federation of Business and Professional Women - BPW-Int.

These awards recognize her contribution, through Merck Foundation, towards empowering African women in the field of Research and Healthcare and empowering underprivileged women who live with infertility in Africa and developing countries.

She has also been a member of Human Resources Science and Technology Cluster of African Union (ECOSOCC) in 2016.

Ahmed Hamdy
Executive Secretary
Scientific, Technical, and Research Commission
African Union Commission

 Dr. Eng. Ahmed HAMDY is the Executive Director of the African Union, Scientific, Technical and Research Commission (AU/STRC); and former Head of Science &Technology and ICT Division of Department of Human Resources Science and Technology of the African Union Commission (AUC). He was appointed as Member of the ASRIC Bureau and as the Executive Director of African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC) in 2018.

Dr. Hamdy has 28 years of national and international work experiences out of which 14 years are devoted fully to Science and Technology policy development. His main achievements in the field of Science policy were the development of the book of lighthouse projects; and Africa’s Regional Action Plan on the Knowledge Economy and its book of flagship projects. This resulted in successful projects and programs such as the African Union Research Grant; Connect Africa Research and Education; African Leadership Programme on ICT, African Internet Exchange Points; African Union Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award; the African Network of Infectious Diseases Surveillance; African Scientific Research and Innovation Council; and the African Network of Sciences.

He had a significant contribution to other continental project and programs such as the establishment of the Pan African Intellectual Property Organization and the African Science Technology and Innovation Observatory. Most recently he was among the core contributors to the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA 2024) which is a continental strategy for next 10 year to shape and direct the continent on the STI landscape.

In furtherance, he has also developed the Research Translation from bed to the bedside in Africa towards bridging the existing gap in translating research outputs to practical use in the health science. Towards enhancing green innovation in Africa, he has developed the Green Innovation Framework for Africa. On the other hand, realizing the need for enhanced cooperation and Intra Africa collaboration among scientists, he has established the African Union Network of Sciences, a virtual network that promotes knowledge sharing and brain circulation linking scientists of different fields within Africa and in diaspora. Building upon the importance of women and youth in science, he has developed the roadmap that to enhance the participation of women in science “Towards Women participation in Science” among others.

Ahmed Fahmi
Program Specialist, Division of Science Policy and Capacity-Building
UNESCO, Paris - France

After a peripatetic education in Africa, Asia, Italy and the UK, Ahmed Fahmi settled for a PhD on investigating the role of membrane proteins in controlling the electro-chemical behaviour of cardiac cells, which he obtained in 2000 from the University of Cambridge.

Thereafter he worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Imperial College and Kings College of the University of London and the Max Planck Institute in Germany before landing a university post for teaching biochemistry at the University of London.

Dr Fahmi joined UNESCO in 2006 working in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region on managing and coordinating the execution of the organization global programme in Basic and Engineering Sciences and Science Policy. He worked on a variety of projects, notably the development of a field guide manual on repair and retrofitting of historical building for earthquake engineers, e-learning programme in renewable energy, Teachers training program for Sri Lanka, policy formulation on the marine environment of the Maldives, the planning and execution of the reform of the Kingdom of Bhutan’s science and higher education system and the establishment of the UNESCO Regional Centre for Biotechnology in India.

He was a visiting professor at the United Nations University in Japan in 2012, working on socio-economic theories of development. He was transferred to UNESCO Head Quarters in Paris in 2013 and has been involved in the establishment of UNESCO centres of excellence and in the reform of the biotechnology sector of Ethiopia.

He also leads the Global Observatory of Science Policy Instruments (GOSPIN) working on the review and formulation of STI policies in Africa. He has many peer-reviewed articles in his name.

Dr. Andrew kambugu
Director of the Research Program at the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS), Uganda.

Dr. Kambugu is the Director of the Research Program at the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS), and is an honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at MakCHS. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota (UMN), USA. He received his basic medical training as well as his residency in Internal Medicine at Makerere University in Uganda and undertook specialist training in Infectious Diseases in the USA and Canada. He has over 12 years of clinical experience in HIV medicine and is a member of 2 National HIV Subcommittees (Adult Antiretroviral Therapy and HIV Drug Resistance) of the Ugandan Ministry of Health. He directed the HIV Clinic at the IDI for seven years.  He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), London, UK.

Dr. Kambugu’ s research interests include HIV treatment outcomes in resource limited settings, as well as the diagnosis and management of opportunistic infections in these settings with a focus on cryptococcal meningitis and tuberculosis. He has accrued considerable experience in assembling clinical cohorts as well as conducting fairly large clinical trials in Uganda. He is a principal investigator on a number of clinical trials spanning the fields of HIV therapeutics, HIV treatment strategies and implementation science in Uganda.