A report on global research by Thomson Reuters (released 12 April 2010) shows that Africa’s contribution to global scientific research is very low. This is hardly surprising.
According to the report, Africa’s low scientific output is attributable to a chronic lack of investment in facilities for research and teaching. Brain drain remains a critical problem. Many of Africa’s best students take their higher degrees at universities in Europe, Asia and North America.
There is need for urgent action to remedy the situation. Science and technology is key to Africa’s socio-economic progress and is especially critical to tackling such food security, controlling infectious diseases, enabling access to clean water, as well as providing a basis for sustainable use and management of environment and natural resources.
Support is growing for a bid to persuade the G8+5 nations to fund 1,000 senior research positions in African universities. The Academic Chairs for Africa initiative would require the rich G8 countries and the emerging economies that now attend the group's gatherings–Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Mexico-to commit US$100m per year over a five-year period.
The initiative is modelled on a ten-year-old Canadian programme to prevent promising academics leaving the country. Getting G8+5 support is great. However, individual countries in Africa must get their act in gear and commit resources to scientific research and science education.