Fund scientific research projects, Africa urged

Roselyne Sachiti in NAIROBI, Kenya
African governments should take action and prioritise funding for local scientific research and innovation as the continent’s future depends on the two, Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim said yesterday. Speaking at a media breakfast meeting at the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) here, President Gurib-Fakim said the continent should commit itself to boosting excellence in science and technology for achieving sustained long-term development.

“Now is the moment for African governments to take action and prioritise funding for local scientific research and innovation, our continent’s future depends on it,” he said. “As a scientist, entrepreneur and a President, I have seen first hand the impact that investments in science can have both on individual researchers and on a country’s development.”

President Gurib-Fakim said throughout history, science and technology has been instrumental in improving the human condition.

“That role will not diminish, although nations will have to be adept and innovative to bend science and technology for development purposes and social advance,” she said. “When we talk about leveraging science and technology for development, we cannot be oblivious of the need to mobilise adequate funding in science and technology research.”

President Gurib-Fakim said Sub-Saharan Africa had taken significant strides in establishing networks of excellence, launching the African Union competitive grants; supporting capacity development; improving the policy environment conducive to science and technology and building innovation mechanisms to spur innovation and change.

“Nonetheless, the results can best be described as a work in progress,” she said.

“Some of the major challenges faced are excessive reliance on external financial support that has tended to target short term activities and solutions. In other areas, there has been limited scope for engaging African scientists and rallying to promote scientific development.”

In Africa, research is dominated by Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria Kenya and South Africa.

The AESA launch ceremony featured the announcement of two grant programmes intended to support Africa’s future research leaders.

University of Zimbabwe’s Dr Dixon Chibanda was awarded $4,1 million for research he is carrying out under the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI).

Dr Chibanda’s research tackles the gap in provision for mental health disorders.