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Chemistry In Africa's Least Developed Countries
An Overview of Capacity Building and Research Support
Report prepared by C. F. Garbers (1998)

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Only two countries from Africa (Egypt and South Africa) adhere to IUPAC. However, IUPAC (and ICSU) are actively involved in many initiatives impacting on science, generally, and chemistry in particular, in Africa. Special attention should be drawn to the fruitful co-operation between UNESCO and IUPAC in those areas considered to be of high priority by UNESCO and which are reviewed in Chemistry International. (ref. 43)

Attention is drawn to three new initiatives:

    5.1. The Foundation for Research Development, Pretoria, South Africa

    The newly established COSTED-IBN Regional Secretariat, hosted by the Foundation for Research Development, Pretoria, has been in operation since September 1995. The new initiatives by this Secretariat are:

    • Capacity building in research in the basic and applied science education and training with the emphasis on the solution of problems encountered in the African continent;
    • A concerted drive to encourage all countries of Southern and East Africa to join both ICSU and COSTED-IBN;
    • Development of a framework for science and technology indicators for African countries. Such indicators have already been developed for Ghana and Uganda.



    In the past, Africa has received little attention from IUPAC's Committee on the Teaching of Chemistry (IUPAC-CTC). During 1997 a formal accord was established between the four organizations mentioned (RADMASTE - Centre for Research and Development in Maths, Science and Technology Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; CIFFERSE - Centre International Francophone pour la Formation de l'Education et de la Recherche en Sciences Expérimentales, Université de Montpellier, France). This accord provides for active cooperation in developing countries, particularly in Africa, in science education. An emphasis is given to the low-cost equipment for science education developed by RADMASTE.

    A proposal has been submitted to ICSU for funding of the trial introduction of the microchemistry system developed by RADMASTE in one country from each of the five regions of Africa as defined by the OAU.


    Three projects are at various states of development. One project, already approved by UNESCO (Paris), provides for Prof. J. D. Bradley (Chairman: IUPAC-CTC; Director: RADMASTE Centre) to visit Kenya, Lesotho and Namibia later this year (1997) to introduce the microchemistry system developed by RADMASTE.

    A second project is at the proposal stage. This project, developed by RADMASTE in cooperation with UNESCO (Pretoria), aims to introduce low-cost science equipment and provide teacher training and curriculum development in the sciences in a number of countries in the SADC region. Local distribution and manufacture are also provided for. It is hoped to initiate the project, at least in part, at the start of 1998.

    A third project, also at the proposal stage, focuses on Rwanda. The proposal submitted to the Government of Rwanda, for funding by UNDP, provides for an intensive science education development program to begin at the start of 1998.

    RADMASTE/Projet d'Harmonisation des Programmes de Sciences Physiques et de Technologie pour les Pays Francophones d'Afrique et de l'Ocean Indien.

    A formal network for cooperation in physical sciences education has been established amongst the 18 Francophone countries of Africa and the Indian Ocean. At the second network seminar held in Dakar in April 1997, a formal resolution was taken to conduct trial implementation studies in a number of countries with the microchemistry system developed by RADMASTE. Some of these may be conducted in cooperation with CIFFERSE. These studies should be initiated later this year (1997), probably with the financial assistance of the French Ministry of Cooperation.

    5.3. IUPAC - Macromolecular Division/UNESCO

    UNESCO funding has been granted for the launch of a materials sciences project in Africa. Deeply involved in this initiative is Prof. R. D. Sanderson, Director of the Institute for Polymer Science, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. UNESCO has selected the Institute for Polymer Science as a center for training in materials science.


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