Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Non-Recognition and Inequality Scientific Research in Africa

27.01.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Why does it seem like Africa always trail when it comes to most inventions and developments. Is it there is no real development pioneered in Africa or there is a lack of self-belief and lack of the publicity of the innovations or strides towards developing. It has often said that Insufficient research is a major impediment to the growth, development, and advancement of Africa. Africa produces less than 1% of global research output. Meanwhile, African countries face some of the toughest challenges worldwide, most of which can only be tackled through robust and efficient research. Addressing the barriers to conducting research in Africa is a step towards improving research capacity and output. But it is all gloomy? The debate is open…

The question of the African researcher’s status

The question of the African researcher’s status did not arise today. In addition to the difficulties they regularly face on the continent in view of the lack of equipment that does not facilitate research and the obtaining of convincing results, the question of international recognition is also a problem. Raised and discussed several times during the consultative meetings of the Association for the Anthropology of Social Change and Development (APAD), the problem of the status of the African researcher continues to surface. Even within the APAD, which calls it “cardinal”, the sounds of bells are different. Many people, faced with this enduring problem, raise the bad solutions provided so far by African leaders who still do not understand, or have very little understanding of the contribution that scientific production can have in the development of the continent. For even those who try to give an important place to scientists, the problems of means, freedoms, and alignment with international standards are severe.

The African treaties, with regard to the status of researchers on the continent, must be able to evolve if it is to be part of a positive logic. It is indeed difficult to think that until today, it is the same difficulty that continues to dig the grave of scientific research in Africa. To be convinced, we must not go too far back since it is the same claims of yesterday that continue to fuel the discussion today. One of the most universal is the issue of union demands from African university professors. However, this question was decided at the first Congress of African Scientists held in Brazzaville, Congo, in 1987, where it was the subject of Recommendation.

The question of freedom, the means and the interest of African research is also not without interest. Indeed, several African intellectuals disguised as researchers on TV platforms no longer do research. The content for the most part, with the credit acquired from their community to report and clean non-contextual and non-factual analyses, with the sole objective of pleasing one or more high personalities. The role of the state must also be questioned at this level since several African researchers have been transformed into ordinary civil servants, whose actions and results are dictated by the employer-state. And, as for the majority of African states, governments are dictated by an adulterous logic of power preservation, they then use these researchers whom they program the destination of research and ideas.

From an analytical point of view, this attitude, tailored to the customer’s logic, blocks the advent of real African scientific research. In French-speaking African countries, the picture is even more obvious. The unsaid of this policy of “instrumentalization” of researchers put in the background the number and the quality of their publications. This doubt means that sometimes the research results of certain scientists are little or not taken into account by political decision-makers. Countries like the Central African Republic and even Benin suffer enormously because of these difficulties. The consequence being that in the systems which characterize them, the researcher has not been recognized as such since, beyond the competence, it is the number of diplomas obtained and the seniority, even in the status quo which counts as a priority.

The other difficulty which arises from the questioning of the status of the African researcher resides at the level of international acceptance. Many of the scientific works carried out on the continent which could have greatly helped the evolution of science, do not receive much-needed support to the extent that these works are sometimes sought for hidden purposes. While the question surrounding the AIDS drug, the Immunorex-DM28, discovered by the Gabonese researcher Donatien Mavoungou remains unclear, others, on the other hand, deserve more attention.

This is the case with the work that has been done around “Artemisia”, presented as a miracle solution to malaria in Africa. A plant from the traditional Chinese pharmacopeia, it is now cultivated in more than 18 African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, which already has five production houses. Several African researchers and even the association that promotes the use of the plant are unanimous in the fact that it “treats and prevents malaria”. “Since we started consuming Artemisia, our pharmaceutical bill has dropped by 50%,” said Father Bakary, an agronomist representing the Artemisia House in Adzopé. Only the Westerners, a major exporter of malaria drugs on the continent, reject this solution, saying that it is “ineffective and irresponsible”. To better understand the different positions of each of the parties, perhaps it would be better to highlight the financial interest behind it. It is clear that faced with a “free” solution and within the reach of all Africans, as the Ivorian MP N’guetta Kamanan, an agricultural engineer by training, reminds us, the Western pharmacological lobbying, which has a lot to lose, will always press so that the conclusions of African researchers in the matter are rejected.

The legend of scientific equality in Africa

Today, more than yesterday, the question of scientific equality in Africa must be debated. The Unesco report on science, “around 2030”, can give an idea of their digital representation, since women, who now represent 53% of holders of a bachelor’s or master’s degree and 43% of doctors in the world are only around 28% of researchers worldwide. Taking into account the global aspect, this report reveals that these figures unmask significant inter-regional disparities. While among global researchers, there are already only 2.4% of African scientists, the proportion of women is even more worrying because they are barely 30% of this percentage. These inequalities are even greater depending on the country. In West Africa, we note that only 8% of research laboratories are headed by women.

The absence of motivation and role models may explain this low involvement of women in the fields of scientific research in Africa. A typical example is the lack of female role models in secondary education, with fewer female teachers than their male counterparts. In Kenya, for example, according to a 2014 KNEC report, it is noted that out of the country’s top 100 students, there are only 17 girls, mostly from high-cost national secondary schools. According to this report, this gap is widening in secondary schools in disadvantaged districts. Further, in Kenya, only 75 of the 300 students who obtain a doctorate each year are women. In Chad, only 5% of researchers are women.

To deal with these situations, measures are taken to restore equality. In the spirit of the “Sustainable Development Goals and the AU Agenda 2063”, it is important that girls and women play a vital role in development. It is, therefore, necessary to involve them more in studies and jobs related to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Several conclusions and study reports abounded in this direction. As the report of the National Council for Science and Technology, NCST, 2010, the conclusions of the “Report on situation analysis, 2013” ​​or the report of the Forum for African women in education, FAWE, 2005, the recommendations are the same. A relevant initiative concerning a prize for African scientists has even been envisaged in order to encourage them. Organized by UNESCO and L’ORÉAL, the international prize “L’OREAL UNESCO for women in science” aims to further promote the involvement of women in science. Since its creation and that of the program dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa, 11 exceptional women scientists and 129 young talents, doctoral and post-doctoral students all from the African continent, have been supported and highlighted. All this is proving that the fight is not lost.

The conditions under which research is done in Africa are severely flawed and do not encourage engagement in research, or continuity of research activity. African governments need to develop initiatives that accelerate and support research and research-based education in Africa, in order to build a solid foundation for research, increase research capacity, and enable institutions to provide valuable training and develop sustainable research opportunities in Africa.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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