Mauritius President: Africa Must Invest More In Science, Research

Mauritius President: Africa Must Invest More In Science, Research

Appointed the first female leader of Mauritius on June 5, 2015, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim may be Africa’s No. 1 voice in support of developing African science and research.

In her work as a biodiversity scientist, Gurib-Fakim wrote more than 28 scientific books that sold worldwide and are used as reference by students and researchers. She holds an honorary doctorate from Pierre and Marie Curie University — formerly known as the Sorbonne. She is also an honorary professor at Pretoria’s University of South Africa (UNISA).

She’s also a business leader and former director of the Mauritius-based Centre for Phytotherapy Research, which does research on plants used in nutrition, cosmetics and therapy.

She achieved many firsts in a male-dominated environment including first female professor at the University of Mauritius and first female dean of the faculty of science, serving from 2004 to 2010.

She oversaw preparation of the first inventory of aromatic and medicinal plants in Mauritius, providing scientific analysis of a number of plant alternatives to medicines for use against fungal diseases and diabetes.

Now she’s using the visibility of her name and presidency to lead the call for more investment in science and research by African governments.

You can read more about Gurib-Fakim in this earlier AFKInsider article.

From TheGuardian. Story by Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa highlighted the disconnect between policy and research. It revealed the absence of strong and credible institutions, the lack of trained doctors and nurses and the outdated and underdeveloped medical and research systems.

The shortage of clinical scientists, epidemiologists and diagnostics laboratories to survey and curtail the disease have had a devastating impact.

The impacts of climate change also hang like a Damocles sword over a region that has contributed below 3 percent of the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industrial sources.

Science, technology and innovation can provide answers to these threats and challenges and yet have never been centre stage in our decision-making processes.

One of the consequences to this oversight has been brain drain. Many talented Africans have left to greener pastures in the West. The need to provide an enabling environment, and to prevent this drain of talent, is high on government agenda. In Mauritius, the government is enacting policies and providing incentives like a 10-year tax holiday for those who return.

Currently, it is tough for African scientists who have chosen to stay behind. They are forever fighting to secure funding to further their ideas and research activities.

Research priorities are set outside the continent without any alignment to the needs of the continent. As a result, more funding is being spent on HIV and AIDS, as well as malaria and tuberculosis, and not enough is spent on neglected tropical diseases.

We need to ensure that funding from international partners complements government funding. Investing local funding will ensure that the research done in Africa helps to meet the continent’s pressing needs. It would also help to ensure the sustainability of programmes after donor funding has dried up. Then trained young scientists can also be assured of a brighter future.

In September we launched the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Africa (AESA). AESA is a new initiative created by the African Academy of Sciences and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, with the support of the U.K. Department for International Development, the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims to support the training of scientists and drive Africa’s research agenda. It also seeks to help scientists grow their careers and access the funding they need to conduct research in order to overcome Africa’s developmental challenges. The launch of AESA earlier this month is a promising step in the right direction.

African governments must join hands with strong and credible international partners to invest in local research. Without funding and the necessary regulatory environment and policies, the benefits of the scientific results emanating from research work won’t be harvested.

Read more at TheGuardian.