On 6th May, the Planet Earth Institute (PEI), launched the HE Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme’, a PEI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiative in partnership with the African Academy of Sciences. The Programme will begin with 10 full PhD research grants for Mauritian researchers (or African researchers studying in Mauritius). Following the pilot 10 grants, the Programme is aiming to expand across Africa to award 10,000 PhD Scholarships in the coming decade in the areas of water, energy, agribusiness, health and blue sky research. To learn more about the scholarship, please visit our website. Here, Sarah Hambly from the Planet Earth Institute outlines seven ways in which Africa would benefit from more scientific researchers.
- Across the continent, science is increasingly seen as a central component of developmental decision-making. For example, high-profile conferences such as February’s Next Einstein Forum in Senegal have turned the spotlight onto some of the continent’s best young scientists and technologists.
- Yet more needs to be done to ensure that Africa has the domestic skills base to create solutions to its greatest development challenges. As President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim pointed out in a recent interview, ‘If we had the testing ability and the basic education around the sciences — hygiene for example — we probably, and hopefully, would not have had the human disaster that we saw during the Ebola crisis.’
- Take water. Although Africa appears blessed with abundant water resources, at least 358 million peoplelack access to water in Africa and almost half the population suffers from one of the six major water-related diseases. Skilled researchers with knowledge of the local context could help address this issue.
- Power supply issues are also affecting citizens’ quality of life, and pushing up the high cost of doing business on the continent. It would be fantastic to see talented scientists in Africa creating innovations that enhance access to clean and sustainable energy.
- Agriculture is another sector that demands critical attention. While Africa has 60% of the world’s arable land, it needs specialised scientific knowledge to make the most of it.
- However, we must balance investment in applied research that addresses current development challenges with basic sciences that can enlarge the scope of scientific discoveries, and aid long-term development.
- At the same time, we need to ensure that African PhD students have the hands on experience that employers are looking for, and that their research aligns with industry needs.