Africa’s scientists leave the continent in droves

Written by Staff Writer by Emily Reid

Two of Africa’s leading scientists are leaving their native countries. And so too are many colleagues, often leaving the continent without a single scientist in some of its leading institutions.

Kamini Abraham from Sudan and Aaron David Joy from Uganda — who have been working together on developing non-toxic vaccines against polio and H5N1 bird flu — announced their decision to leave a terse statement to The New York Times this week.

“The lack of support, space and remuneration by the government of Sudan is pushing us to leave Sudan,” they said in the statement.

Abraham and Joy’s departure follows that of Ali Haji — also from Uganda — who last month announced he was leaving the country as well after 14 years of work at the University of Kampala’s Oswald Hospital.

A post by Daily Monitor states that another Ugandan scientist, a member of the African Union, is leaving the country, despite government promises to increase funding for science.

“I say no to theft of funding by Ugandan government officials,” Humanitarian medical doctor Abudullahi Ismail read. “I say no to sabotaging of funding by government.”

New evidence suggests that Ebola is returning to the continent. How is Ebola being spread? How is it spreading in Africa? CNN has this piece detailing the latest on the virus and what might be done to stem the spread.

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How are the implications for Africa felt? A 2015 study by The World Bank estimated that of the 4,934 scientists who work in the 57 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, only 613 hold postgraduate degrees and approximately 36% hold doctorates.

Speaking to Reuters, Michael Lubell, professor of energy and environment at University College London, said: “It’s problematic to have such a small number of people with the credentials to do basic research for this continent.

“For most of them, their primary focus is now on Africa, they may want to go back to their home countries, to their families, and start jobs there. The skills won’t disappear, the expertise will just be transferred,” he said.

Amid reports that a majority of Africa’s top universities do not offer top academics the opportunity to work there, states often respond to demands for wage increases by cutting back on science programs. The Southern African Development Community reports that between 2004 and 2013, the number of staff members and researchers in its countries’ universities shrank by 10%.

In May 2015, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo pledged to “create an atmosphere of excellence and a culture of service to the nation in Africa’s universities.” The African Development Bank says an effective means to do this is through funding investment in higher education in Africa.

In August, Abdoulaye Bathily from Nigeria declared that he would return to his home country “to improve scientific research in Africa. We must also reform institutions to support their role in nation building.”

At a World Bank meeting on women in science, many African scientists expressed their frustration at being paid less than their counterparts in Asia, Europe or the United States.

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