Background: Globally, sub-Saharan Africa bears the greatest burden of disease. Strengthened research capacity to understand the social determinants of health among different African populations is key to addressing the drivers of poor health and developing interventions to improve health outcomes and health systems in the region. Yet, the continent clearly lacks centers of research excellence that can generate a strong evidence base to address the region’s socio-economic and health problems. Objective and program overview: We describe the recently launched Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA), which brings together a network of nine academic and four research institutions from West, East, Central, and Southern Africa, and select northern universities and training institutes. CARTA’s program of activities comprises two primary, interrelated, and mutually reinforcing objectives: to strengthen research infrastructure and capacity at African universities; and to support doctoral training through the creation of a collaborative doctoral training program in population and public health. The ultimate goal of CARTA is to build local research capacity to understand the determinants of population health and effectively intervene to improve health outcomes and health systems. Conclusions: CARTA’s focus on the local production of networked and high-skilled researchers committed to working in sub-Saharan Africa, and on the concomitant increase in local research and training capacity of African universities and research institutes addresses the inability of existing programs to create a critical mass of well-trained and networked researchers across the continent. The initiative’s goal of strengthening human resources and university-wide systems critical to the success and sustainability of research productivity in public and population health will rejuvenate institutional teaching, research, and administrative systems.