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Women are the key to unlocking Africa’s scientific potential

Female students are still in a minority in universities across the continent. Approximately 200,000 African students are currently preparing a doctorate (including 160,000 in African institutions and 25,000 in Europe). Despite this progress, Africa still lags behind Europe and urgent action is needed to promote the sciences and bolster Africa’s fledgling economies.

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This picture show a group of people holding hands, representing the population of Africa.

Despite progress many African nations still struggle with a lack of qualified researchers. The continent of Africa on average has just 35 researchers per million inhabitants, compared to nearly 2,500 in Europe and more than 4,000 in the United States (according to the African Development Bank), the continent remains a land of science in the making.

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Brain drain has caused significant challenges for the continent of Africa who often lose their most talented minds to western institutions. At the moment the 54 nations on the world’s fastest developing continent are hoping that expatriates will return home and share their knowledge. For the moment the situation remains grim. Just 2.6% of the world’s researchers work between Algiers and Cape Town according to UNESCO estimates.

Yet there is hope. There are approximately 200,000 African students preparing a doctorate (160,000 in African institutions, and around 25,000 in Europe) and the many nations on the continent are undertaking significant campaigns to build upon existing institutions and efforts are underway to encourage female students to take up studies.

A fact that makes Larissa Kojoué, a researcher at the laboratory Africa in the world (LAM) in Bordeaux, and an observer of the emergence of African research, say that “the trend is certainly upward,” but that “it depends more on individual than collective dynamics.”

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For the person who edited the collective book Tu seras docteur.e. mon enfant (ed. L’Harmattan), a small Copernican revolution has yet to take place. “Until the issue of research training, which is the issue of doctoral access conditions, is resolved research in Africa will continue to look poor. Because these conditions are fragile, everything that allows innovative research to emerge, to be led and developed is lacking: research laboratories, scientific journals, seminars, symposia,” she explains to Le Monde Afrique, before adding: “Our universities, especially those in Central Africa, are still under construction when they should have been in place a long time ago.”

The university, a tool for the development of Africa

In fact, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in Africa, such as increasing the capacity of reception facilities, improving research preparation and equipping laboratories. For the first point, progress is being made, according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“In 1970, there were fewer than 400,000 higher education students in the sub-Saharan zone, while now universities in Africa have nearly 10 million students. The enrolment in higher education is increasing by more than 4% per year, compared to a world average of 2.8%,” the organization points out in its Review of Higher Education.

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(Featured image by Baim Hanif via Unsplash)

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First published in Le Monde, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

Although we made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translations, some parts may be incorrect. Born2Invest assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions or ambiguities in the translations provided on this website. Any person or entity relying on translated content does so at their own risk. Born2Invest is not responsible for losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy or reliability of translated information. If you wish to report an error or inaccuracy in the translation, we encourage you to contact us.

Helene Lindbergh is a published author with books about entrepreneurship and investing for dummies. An advocate for financial literacy, she is also a sought-after keynote speaker for female empowerment. Her special focus is on small, independent businesses who eventually achieve financial independence. Helene is currently working on two projects—a bio compilation of women braving the world of banking, finance, crypto, tech, and AI, as well as a paper on gendered contributions in the rapidly growing healthcare market, specifically medicinal cannabis.

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