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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Scant funding for research facilities is hurting Africa

Africa gets plenty of financial support for science but suffers from 'brain drain' and low research output. The main reason is inadequate brick-and-mortar facilities needed for research.
The European Union provides more funding to the continent than it gives to Asia and Latin America combined and there is additional support from Australian, North American and UK research agencies.
As a result, Africa should have a thriving research community. However, this is not the case.
This is reflected, in part, in brain drain figures. The exodus of skilled labour has averaged about 20,000 professionals a year since 1990. Various data also reveal the reality that Africa's contributions to the world's research and development (R&D) remain very low — totalling less than 1 per cent of global investment in R&D and a mere 1.5 per cent of total scientific publications — and has been so consistently over the past decade.
The central reason for the discrepancy between the availability of research funds and the small scale of African scientific output is the lack of adequate research infrastructure: laboratories, data processing centres, biobanks and other brick-and-mortar facilities needed for research, especially near universities.
In most African countries, support for research infrastructure lags far behind that for other types of infrastructure projects, such as transport, water and power. It is certainly politically and socially difficult to justify spending money on a research laboratory or a data centre at the expense of a water sanitation treatment plant, for example.
The appropriate solution has two dimensions: intra-African and international. On the intra-African side, African governments need to develop long-term strategic roadmaps for R&D investment that include infrastructure development.
Internationally, the diplomatic community inside and outside Africa, together with scientists and researchers, needs to encourage donor governments and agencies that provide Africa with development assistance and science funding to allow for, and promote, the use of some of this money for research infrastructure development.

Source: SciDev.Net.