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  • Written by Linda Nordling

Africa's scientific workforce is becoming less well-educated

Geoffrey Mugambi, an MSc student at Kenyatta University, working on the use of molecular markers in agricultural breeding programs. In some African countries, fewer than half the research workforce had advanced degrees. Photo: Flickr/Swathi_Sridharan (ICRISAT).[CAPE TOWN] The amount of money that Sub-Saharan African countries spend annually on agricultural research and development (R&D) rose by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2008, according to a study. But while some countries have been spending more, others are losing ground.

And, worryingly, Africa's scientific workforce is becoming less well-educated, with the proportion of researchers who have only Bachelor's degrees increasing dramatically in recent years.

The findings are presented in a report published this week (7 April) by Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), an initiative of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

The report, 'African Agricultural R&D in the New Millennium: Progress for Some, Challenges for Many', surveyed agricultural R&D spending in more than 300 institutions across 32 Sub-Saharan African countries that account for more than 90 per cent of the region's agricultural gross domestic product (GDP).

  • Written by Munyaradzi Makoni

Tough times for Zimbabwe's science minister

A number of Zimbabweans are back in universities and research institutes, such as Zimbabwe's Crops Research Institute, but many are still in the diaspora. Photo: Flickr/Swathi_Sridharan.Munyaradzi Makoni explains how an economic crisis and a brain drain have created problems for Zimbabwe's science minister, Heneri Dzinotyiweyi.

[CAPE TOWN] Next month, Zimbabwe plans to make public the results of its science and technology policy review, which began in February.

The review could be seen as a verdict on the work of Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, who took over as science and technology minister two years ago with a pledge to rebuild the research capacity of institutions and plug the country's brain drain.

He has established a department for the commercialisation of research and development, as well as a framework for a national nanotechnology programme. There have also been talks of a science tax to resuscitate the sector. But apart from that, little has been achieved.

  • Written by Mićo Tatalović

Poor countries urged to get ready for synthetic biology

Craig Venter. Developing countries could soon be feeling the effects of his breakthrough in synthetic biology. Photo: Flickr/dfarber.EN | FR | 中文

Environmental campaigners are urging developing countries to include the rapidly advancing science of synthetic biology — the building of new organisms using genes as biological 'bricks' — in their biosafety legislation for genetically modified (GM) crops.

They are concerned that synthetic biology products based on novel organisms could be developed, and commercialised, before there is regulation and understanding of their environmental and societal impacts.

With many countries in the midst of legislating for the arrival of GM crops, now is the time to include frameworks for dealing with synthetic organisms as well, according to Eric Hoffman, a biotechnology expert at Friends of the Earth (FoE), the environmental campaigning organisation.

  • Written by Linda Nordling and David Dickson

Manifesto calls for bottom-up science in poor countries

Science in developing countries must be more user-driven, says the manifesto. Photo: CIAT rice research collaborator Jesus Cruz, of MAN-B, inspects an experimental rice plantation near Caranavi, Bolivia; Flickr/CIAT/Neil Palmer.

EN | ES | 中文

[CAPE TOWN and LONDON] Global research and development spending has risen but it has failed to benefit or involve the poor, according to a 'manifesto' for developing world science launched yesterday (15 June).

Science in developing countries ought to be more user-driven and more reliant on democratic innovation processes, according to 'Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto', produced by the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre based at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

It follows the 'Sussex Manifesto', produced by the same university some 40 years ago, which called for global research to focus on problems affecting poor countries and for developing countries themselves to invest more in research and development (R&D).


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