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.”
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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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.
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