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A recent paper of the French Institut de recherche et de d√©veloppement(IRD)[1] entitled Science Diaspora: how can developing countries benefit from their expatriate researchers and scientists ? is of interest for all those who are involved in or spectators of the African scientific scene. The figures it mentions dramatically highlight how serious is the shortage of men and women science specialists working in research for the benefit of this continent, which is still struggling to be part of modernity. Africa, which has 10 % of the world’s population, produces only 0.7 % of the world’s scientific publications and 0.1 % of its registered patents[2]. Further, at least 600,000 researchers and engineers from Africa, Latin America, India or China are currently working in the United States, Europe or Japan. Of the students who go to seek training in a country of the North, two-thirds settle there permanently. The French office for international cooperation and development warns that “the influx of brains moving from the South to the North is a massive and durable phenomenon.”[3]

Research work in the developed countries of the North is focused on areas that are essential for their national interests. This is not a charity business, the only thing that counts is the well-being of their citizens. The increasing pace of globalization has no impact on a sad reality : research labs in the North have no interest in the specific problems of the South. Examples abound: parasitic diseases, including malaria, are a case in point. Malaria affects almost 41 % of the world’s population or about 2.3 billion people, and it kills, each year, between 1.5 ad 2.7 million humans, one million of them below the age of 5. However, not even the beginning of a solution is yet in sight to address this public health problem.

For an expatriate researcher who emigrates to the North for economic, socio-political, educational or family reasons, leaving is often a heartrending experience. Departure, says the heart and reason, is akin to a refusal to provide assistance to endangered persons. But a new approach is emerging, and expatriates from the South, who have been considered as a complete loss for the South, are becoming an asset for their home countries [4] . Thus, the networks established by researchers of South American origin have demonstrated that they can be an important contribution to development in their home countries. Such a contribution may take various forms : sending equipment and documentation to universities and local research centers, identifying useful areas of study, setting up of programs that take account of the scientific possibilities of the country of origin, organizing training seminars, giving courses, helping students, developing research projects, consultancy work, etc.

The science world in Africa should draw lessons from these actions. It is important to develop and activate a network of science specialists of the African diaspora. Publication on the internet of a Manifesto would help to develop a platform of action to mobilize teams of specialists on applied research projects specific to Africa’s needs.

  1. Collectif, IRD, 2003.
  2. Roland WAAS, L’√©tat des sciences en Afrique, DGCID, 2002.
  3. Ibidem
  4. Ibidem

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