Prof. Dr. Joshua Jortner, President, IUPAC
Download PDF file of the Concluding Remarks
We address some of the central issues raised
and discussed, together with some proposals and conclusions of the
IUPAC-AAPAC meeting On Chemistry in the Development of Africa.
- Human Capital Development
- Chemistry education at all levels
- Research infrastructure
- Reduction of braindrain
- Bridging gap between donors and developing countries
- The Chemical Industry
- Chemistry and the environment
- Science Society and Government Interface
- The revolution in electronic scientific communication
- Liaison between IUPAC and AAPAC
- Broadening of geographical base of IUAPC in Africa on regional
and national basis
- Proposal for two joint programs for IUPAC-AAPAC collaboration.
The first program is the planning of the electronic communication
scientific highway for Africa. The second program will be proposed
by the AAPAC
With respect I deliver this concluding address. Our meeting inspires
deep respect to the chemistry community of Africa, facing difficult
problems and adopting firm commitment and a sense of purpose for the
I shall touch on some of the central issues raised and discussed,
together with some proposals and conclusions of our fruitful and most
Human Capital Development. We addressed all levels of chemistry
education and research. While our mathematician colleagues maintain
that mathematics is a basic language, it is imperative to remember
and to convey the message that chemistry constitutes the conceptual
framework of all sciences, from physics, material science to biology.
This is the basis for education in chemistry. We addressed central
problems of scientific literacy on the elementary and high school
level, education infrastructure, teaching equipment, teacher continuous
education technical training for specific goals, University education,
and the important issues of the interfaces between teaching-learning,
contact-distant open modes, book-electronic virtual information dissemination
were referred to. Goals, objectives and programs for education on
all levels require long-term strategic plans.
This brings us to Research Infrastructure. Research in the
African University system is not only necessary, but is essential.
The research system has to rest on uniqueness and response to local
needs. Chemistry in Africa has to choose carefully its research directions.
It has to combine intrinsic contribution to knowledge, together with
extrinsic service of chemistry to health, environment, sustainable
development and quality of life, which will be promoted by research.
The development and advancement of the University training and research
systems brings us to the important issue of the preservation of advanced
research manpower. The promotion of the development of young scientists,
doctorate students, post-docs and young faculty members should constitute
a top priority. I am happy to announce that the IUPAC Berlin Congress
in 1999 will bring 20 young chemists from developing countries to
actively participate in this central scientific activity on the Frontiers
of Chemistry. This is a significant step in an important direction.
A central issue in this context of Human Capital pertains to the
preservation of advanced research manpower, taking proper steps towards
the reduction of braindrain. I strongly believe in the basic
principles of freedom of motion of scientists. Let the young people
be completely free to choose the scientific system and the country
to which they will contribute. However, I strongly recommend that
the research systems of Africa will take initiatives to bring back
young, outstanding, scientists after their training abroad (e.g.,
in the U.S.A. or Europe). It is impossible to compete with the material
and research conditions of the developed countries. However, the research
systems of Africa have to advance special programs for sustaining
their manpower. What I have in mind is a program of research grants
of 20,000-40,000 US$ over a period of 4-5 years for young scientists
who return to Africa, which will allow them to maintain continuous
scientific contacts with the research system where they were trained.
This will be accomplished by visits of these scientists to the centers
and by inviting foreign scientists from abroad to the African research
center. Continuity and stability is the key for success of such a
program. But, most important, the young people have to be guided by
ideology and vision regarding their seminal, unique future contribution
to science in their country. Vision, combined with concrete serious
programs, will be of central importance for the future of science
A final comment regarding Human Capital. We are not, by any means,
aiming towards global ownership of human capital. But rather, we strive
towards global collaboration in building, developing and preserving
the Human Capital capacity in the developing countries. I believe
that it is the moral responsibility of the entire world chemistry
community to join forces with and help Africa in building its education
and research Human Capital at all levels. This should be accomplished
by exterior support of well-defined plans and programs.
An important issue was raised concerning bridging the gap between
donors and developing countries. In spite of difficulties on the
international and local governmental levels, we should look into a
possible buffering and coordination of the contributions of IUPAC
as an independent, authoritative, non-governmental, politically neutral
body. Another aspect where IUPAC may be of help pertains to the distribution,
management and accountability of research funds in Africa. IUPAC can
contribute its expertise for external refereeing of research proposals.
Other issues pertained to regional and international collaboration
of the chemistry community in Africa. It was pointed out that regional
collaboration is often more limited in scope than collaboration with
other countries outside Africa. Collaboration within Africa is hampered
because financial support comes only from outside Africa. Another
issue of regional collaboration pertains to joint publication. A possible
avenue, which has to be explored, is an Electronic Journal of Chemistry
The problems and challenges of the chemical industry were
raised, touching on clean industry with the curbing of pollution,
upgrading industrial technology, regional cooperation, and industry-University
The issues of chemistry and the environment were highlighted,
pertaining to pollution problems, food water and health problems,
i.e., malaria, lack of chemical-environment technology, training programs
of technical manpower and sustainable development.
It was sagely pointed out that African countries are poor-rich countries,
rich in natural resources but with poor populations. The future contributions
of chemistry to society in Africa will provide the avenues to a change
to rich-rich countries.
The issue of Science, Society and Government in Africa is
complex and most important. This issue involves the public understanding
of science and government science policy under conditions of inherent
and intrinsic instabilities in developing countries. The internal
building of a critical mass of scientific activity and the spreading
of the message of the importance of chemistry for development are
crucial. The possibility was raised of education and science planning
by the science community. But self-reliance is not enough in this
important context. The important issue was raised of IUPAC's assistance
to the African chemistry community in science-government interface.
IUPAC's strategic plan (1998) contains the goal of representing the
interests of chemistry in governmental and non- governmental forums.
However, IUPAC will not undertake projects, which will cast it in
the role of local governmental policy development. Such an approach
will erode IUPAC's authority as a non-governmental, politically neutral
body, diminishing its effectiveness in serving the world chemistry
community. IUPAC can contribute to the representation of the interests
of the chemical community of Africa in governmental forums by AAPAC-IUPAC
One of the hallmarks of our era is the revolution in global communication,
manifested by electronic computer communication. For the science community
of both developing and developed countries the construction of the
global scientific communication highway will lead to major changes
in scientific research modalities, collaboration, accessibility and
dissemination of scientific information. The revolution in electronic
scientific communication has the potential of a major impact on
the progress of science, and in particular chemistry, in Africa. IUPAC
is already making use of the internet/WEB for global communication.
Electronic publishing of IUPAC's scientific books and journals is
being advanced. IUPAC will look favorably into the modalities of making
this information available to developing countries. Subsequently,
efforts will be made to broaden the scope of the chemical scientific
electronic information to developing countries. The informative scientific
highway for Africa will require as its first stages:
- Setting up of a computer (PC) network and of communication channels.
- Maintenance of the infrastructure.
- Availability of databases.
- Training programs in Africa for electronic communication manpower.
The US National Academy of Sciences plans to have a communication
satellite network ready for use for electronic scientific communication
by developing countries towards the year 2001-2. In conjunction with
availability of databases and electronic publications, this program
has the potential of revolutionizing chemistry in Africa.
The liaison between IUAPC and AAPAC in promoting the contribution
of chemistry in the development of Africa will be of considerable
importance. The AAPAC is the regional chemistry society of Africa
and AAPAC-IUPAC collaboration will constitute regional-global collaboration
with four possible modes of cooperation:
- (1) Dissemination of information for Africa as a central issue,
e.g., education, industrial legislation and environmental problems.
- (2) Joint addressing of regional programs, with mutual input for
international governmental bodies, e.g., UNESCO and WHO, as well
as for non-governmental bodies, e.g., ICSU and other scientific
(3) Joint planning of programs for Africa, including:
- Electronic communication network;
- Electronic African chemistry journal;
- Sustainable development;
- Education at all levels;
- Training programs;
- Research infrastructure.
- (4) The Chemistry-Government interface for Africa.
The AAPAC will provide a bridge between the national chemical societies
of Africa and IUPAC. To strengthen AAPAC-IUPAC ties it will be very
significant if AAPAC will join IUPAC as an Associated Organization,
as is the case for other regional societies, such as the Federation
of European Chemical Societies. Concurrently, I am calling for the
broadening of the geographical base of IUPAC in Africa, with African
countries joining the Union, first as observer countries and subsequently
as full-member National Adhering Organizations. This will reflect
on the globalization of IUPAC.
I would like to adopt a pragmatic approach to IUPAC-AAPAC's future
collaboration. In addition to current programs of IUPAC for developing
countries, in collaboration with UNESCO, ICSU, WHO and UNINDO, I
propose that AAPAC and IUPAC will undertake two joint programs:
The first program is the planning of the electronic communication
scientific highway for Africa, as an AAPAC-IUPAC collaboration.
May I suggest that the second joint program for AAPAC-IUPAC collaboration
will be proposed by the AAPAC.
Deep thanks and appreciation are due to all those who made central
contributions to this meeting:
Professor P. S. Steyn, member of IUPAC's Executive Committee, who
organized our meeting, shaping the scientific program, showing wisdom
and perception in bringing us here and taking care of all the perfect
Professor D. A. Bekoe, President of the AAPAC, for his seminal
Dr. E. D. Becker, the Secretary General of IUPAC, who initiated
the regional meetings between IUPAC and the world leadership in
academic and industrial chemistry.
Dr. J. M. Malin, Administrator of the International Activities
of the American Chemical Society, who kindly accepted our invitation
to participate in our meeting, for his contributions, input and
Most important, deep gratitude is due to all the participants in
this important meeting. Thank you for coming, for your outstanding
contributions by your lectures, presentations, input and perceptive
comments. We are grateful to the chairmen of the session, Professor
P. S. Steyn and Professor H. M. Salem for their leadership.
Our unique and memorable conference was conducted in the true spirit
of scientific exchange. We addressed the major issues of chemistry
and service of chemistry in Africa. The problems are difficult, but
not insurmountable. The challenges are immense. Your admirable approach
rested on the combination of realism and vision. You inspired hope
and a firm sense of purpose for the future of the chemical sciences
and their contribution to the developing countries of Africa. This
message of hope has to be conveyed to the young generation of chemists.
The objectives, initiatives and contributions of chemistry in Africa
must succeed. IUPAC will be privileged to contribute to this central
regional-global endeavor. Let us join forces for the future of Africa
and of Mankind.
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- The Status of Chemistry on the African
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