Young African scientists in Europe had reaffirmed that Africa’s transformation must come from within it emphasizing that Africa’s young motivated and energetic millennial population have huge potentials that must be used to the advantage of the continent, and to address their own growing needs.
These assertions were made during the recently concluded Young African Scientists in Europe Conference, YASE. The conference which held in Toulouse France was a satellite event of the European Science Open Forum and the first conference entirely dedicated to young scientists of African extraction in Europe who are currently pursing higher degrees.
The conference aimed to provide a platform for them to interact and rub minds on issues pertaining to the development of science and Technology on the continent.
YASE 2018 pulled together over 200 young researchers, students, Higher education administrators, policy makers, senior government officials from across Africa, to closely examine the state of science in Africa and proffer ways of improving the lot of science and scientists of African origin, within and outside Africa.
The Sessions were classified under the broad topics of: “Research Networks and Inter African collaborations”, “Improving the quality of graduate and doctoral training”, “The need for scientists in private companies”, “The Scientist and Entrepreneurship”, “Big Scientific Infrastructures in Africa”, “European cooperation with Africa”, “How to do Experimental Science in Africa”, “Spearheading science to address societal issues” and “Diaspora engagement with Africa”.
Various interventions by panelists and participants at the sessions revealed an understanding that most African governments were overwhelmed by the sheer level of need and shortfall in science research, technology and innovation needed to push the country forward and that emerging researchers and scientists needed to innovate and engage government for solutions.
While these challenges could not all together be separated from the continent’s plagued and checkered history, they also identified the need for them to be linked with young and professional researchers and scientists, and for policy makers, governments and all stakeholders to adopt a radical approach to African development as the continent has nothing more to lose.
Participants bemoaned the challenges of language barriers to research cooperation amongst African countries and how that was costing the continent in terms of international visibility and reckoning on the world stage.
They called for the development of an African framework for science and technology cooperation, similar to Europe’s Horizon 2020, that articulates a vision for STEM research and development, adding that African governments must come to the realization that there was always a return on investment in research.
The closing session themed Visions of Science in Africa featured senior government officials from Africa and other panelists namely: Marie-Monique Rasoazananera, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Madagascar; Amy Ally, Vice Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research for University Affairs and Former President of the University of Cairo, Egypt; Amadou Tidiane Ndiaye Head of Cabinet, Ministry of Higher Education Science and Innovation in Senegal; Oumarou Farman Maiga, General Director for Curricula, Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in Niger and Selma Kumar, Vice-President, Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication, Johnson and Johnson; sharing their hopes for Science in Africa and setting out their plans for their individual countries.
It was moderated by Nigerian-born associate Professor Tolulah Oni of Cambridge University, England and member Global Young Academy. Panelists posited that the Higher Education sector should be seen as an industry with veritable potential for yielding unquantifiable economic benefits to countries.
The Nigerian students present were primarily on Scholarships with about 60 percent having been sourced by the students themselves from their host countries and universities or Think Tanks.
Others were sponsored by government under the TETFund or the PTDF. They had legitimate concerns about returning to their countries of origin bordering on inadequate infrastructure, limited uptake into the labour force, unsuitable opportunities for work, precarious work conditions and perceived reduction in intellectual stimulation and challenges and in most cases feared reduction in their quality of life. Many participants were however convinced that they would return because of family ties, and legal bonds signed with their governments.
Governments were called on to further incentivise these students to return home after their studies and contribute to National Development particularly in the University System where there is a shortfall in the needed amount of doctorate degree holders in teaching.
Participants lauded the Innovation and Incentives on Research program recently passed into law by the Egyptian government, and called for a replication across the continent.
The NUC team attending the YASE conference: Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi, Director of International Cooperation and Liason Services; Mal. Haruna Lawal Ajo, Deputy Director, Information and Ms. Ulonna Inyama went on to attend the main ESOF event also holding in Toulouse from 9th – 14th of July, 2018.