The right medical device, computer imaging technology, or mathematical application can give a business a tremendous competitive edge over competitors. But we often forget that behind those money making devices are the scientists who created them. To get to one of the roots that support their economy, African leaders are allocating more funds to scientific research and innovators.
South Africa and Egypt dominate research in Africa, contributing 37 percent and 27 percent to total output from 1999 to 2009, based on scientific publications, according to Scilogs. South Africa also leads for researcher density in the population. Nigeria leads research in west central Africa and Kenya in the eastern region.
In 2007, Africa accounted for 0.4 percent of global research and development. One in 10,000 African citizens were scientists or engineers, versus 20-to-50 per 10,000 in industrialized countries. There are many reasons for this — funding, instability, and lack of resources. In 2011, all of Africa produced as many scientific publications as the Netherlands.
Training and retaining top scientists is a challenge. But there’s optimism in Africa and the international community.
In September the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Africa was launched as a new initiative of the African Academy of Sciences and New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency, with funding from the U.K. Department for International Development, the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The alliance aims to support training of scientists and drive Africa’s research agenda, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. It also seeks to help scientists grow their careers and access the funding they need to conduct research to overcome Africa’s developmental challenges.
Here are 8 African scientists you should watch.
Dr. Tolu Oni is a Nigerian doctor who is studying how the physical environment of undeveloped communities affects the health of those living in those communities. She is focusing on the relationship between chronic infectious and non-infectious diseases, and how urbanization affects the patterns of these. She is currently establishing a research initiative that will identify creative strategies to address complex population health, according to Nef.org.
Cameroonian scientist Wilfred Ndifon made headlines when he solved a 70-year-old puzzle regarding how to put a stop to infectious diseases. Ndifon discovered a substance that can be added to vaccines so that individuals whose immune responses have already been weakened by infectious diseases can still respond well to the vaccine. Ndifon’s theory expanded a previously proposed theory, according to Qz.com.
Nigerian success story Hallowed Olaoluwa had two master’s degrees by the age of 19, and he is the youngest Ph.D. holder from the University of Lagos. Olaoluwa plans to address more life problems using mathematics, according to Bellanaija.com. He hopes to continue research that will improve medical imaging and robotics.
In 2013, Kenyan researcher Evelyn Gitau received a $100,000 grant from the Grand Challenges Canda scholarship program. She is working on a tool to quickly and accurately identify children with severe malnutrition who are likely to die from preventable infection, according to Standardmedia.co.ke. Gitau has already put some of her grant money to use on a clinical trial that looks into the effects of Septrin on malnourished children. Septrin is an international brand used to treat urinary tract infections; chronic bronchitis; eye infections and traveler’s diarrhea.
Mouhamed Moustapha Fall is a Senegalese mathematician who focuses on agricultural and food production, especially overfishing. He is chairman of mathematics and its applications at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. Fall created a mathematical application that helps calculate a sustainable rate at which fishermen in Senegal can fish the local waters without affecting future fish populations. He organized a workshop called “Mathematical tools for understanding and managing fisheries: synthesizing and refining data models,” according to his profile on Sites.Google.com.
Noble Banadda is from Uganda and has a background in chemical engineering. Banadda became a professor at age 37 in the Department of Agricultural and BioSystems Engineering at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. His areas of focus include design and operation of waste water activated sludge systems, anaerobic digestion of waste water and bio remediation of soils, according to Globalyoungacademy.net. He is currently working on ways to create products from solid bio-waste and introducing these methods in Uganda to create jobs.
South Africa heart health specialist Alta Schutte has done extensive research on the heightened risk of heart disease in African communities. Schutte directs the Hypertension in Africa Research Team, which conducts large epidemiological and clinical studies in South African communities, presenting novel data that may contribute to the alleviation of cardiovascular disease, according to Theconversation.com.