Research organisations are complex entities: developing and sustaining a research portfolio is demanding and the landscape in which grants and contracts are secured is highly competitive and global in nature. There is an increasing need for expertise to fulfil the myriad of obligations and the role of the research office, and the responsibilities and expertise of research administrators are multifarious. So why is this pivotal role seemingly not better understood, valued and embraced in Sub-Saharan Africa? As institutions broaden the scope of their research, collaboration with African ROs is increasingly valued by Canadian PIs; and as research teams seek to connect and collaborate with counterparts, an understanding of African systems and cultures is invaluable for identifying and prioritising potential partners, i.e. those with the capacity to engage meaningfully. Drawing on the findings of a 2019 study into strengthening research in seven countries, we will explore the macro environments which influence the expansion of sustainable research environments, including professional research administration.