Urgent need to build research capacity in Africa

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pretoria - Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has illustrated the urgent need to accelerate focused investment in research in Africa.

This as the world is grappling with containing the virus that is devastating West Africa, with a death toll standing at over 4 000 currently. Most of the victims are in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Speaking at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) celebration of 60 years of peace and development in New York on Monday, Minister Pandor said science has been a significant contributor to social development in many parts of the world, citing breakthroughs to eradicate diseases such as polio and smallpox as a result of drug and vaccine development. 

"It is imperative for Africa's scientists to work in Africa if they are to support development on the continent, if they are to play a role in smooth technology transfer and if they are to drive innovation," the Minister said, citing the example of the Square Kilometre Array, which was resulting in brain gain for Africa for the first time in four decades.

Sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 2.3 percent of world's Gross Domestic Product, but is responsible for only 0.4 percent of global expenditure on research and development. With 13.4 percent of the world's population, it is home to only 1.1 percent of the world's scientific researchers. 

Minister Pandor said it was thus logical to propose that focused, well-designed investment in science and innovation could offer Africa new opportunities for development in a range of sectors, as African countries were the major consumers of products of advanced scientific discovery.  

“Building world-class research infrastructure was one of the pillars for building competitive, knowledge-based activities to attract the best human capital resources,” she said. 

The Minister added that she was pleased by the significant contribution CERN had made to increasing world knowledge in new areas of scientific research.  

"We are pleased that several African countries have scientists who have participated in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) research initiatives and we congratulate the leadership of CERN, who have been true world scientists seeking to attract scholars from the global community to the LHC,” she said. 

The CERN event celebrates the values of science and promotes the role of science in international debates and decision-making, and it actively supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Other speakers included Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary-General), Prof. Carlo Rubbia (Nobel Physics Prize winner and former Director-General of CERN) and Kofi Annan (Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN Secretary-General). – SAnews.gov.za


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