News & Notices
IUPAC-AAPAC Joint Meeting on Chemistry in the Development of Africa
Durban, Republic of South Africa, 11 July 1998
by John M. Malin, Ph. D.
International Activities Administrator
American Chemical Society
Concluding Remarks, Plans and Proposals for Future Actions
Dr. Abegaz offered plans and proposals for
future actions as follows:
should pledge partnership to each other. Country-specific or regional
problems should always be addressed with quality and relevance.
census should be taken of professional resources in Africa. AAPAC
should prepare directories of African scientists and of papers published.
in obtaining access to chemical information need to be solved. The
Internet gives access to information but well-stocked libraries provide
ownership of the information.
approaches can make scarce instrument resources generally available
to African scientists. As an example, NAPRECA can now utilize its
FTNMR instrumentation more effectively by sending Free Induction Decay
(FID) data directly by e-mail to users for analysis. This allows researchers
quicker access to spectra and saves analysis time in the primary instrument
institutions need to obtain fairer prices when purchasing instrumentation.
Vendors normally charge more in Africa than in developed countries.
In his concluding remarks, Prof. Jortner
noted that this meeting between AAPAC and IUPAC officials has inspired
deep respect for the chemistry community in Africa as it faces difficult
problems, even as AAPAC adopts firm commitments and a sense of purpose
for the future. He provided the following summary of the central issues,
together with several proposals and conclusions.
- Human capital development.
Plans must be made for human capital development in Africa with
the understanding of chemistry as the conceptual foundation of materials
science, physics, and biology. Goals, objectives, and programs for
education on all levels require long-term strategic plans.
- Research at the graduate level.
Research in the African University system is necessary and essential.
The professional development of young scientists, graduate students,
post-docs and beginning faculty members must be a top priority.
To help in this area, IUPAC will bring 20 young chemists from developing
countries to the Berlin Congress in 1999.
- Reduction of braindrain. While
scientists should be free to move wherever their interests take
them, IUPAC and AAPAC must strongly recommend that the research
systems of Africa take initiatives to bring back young, outstanding
scientists after their training abroad. Special programs should
be instituted to do this, for example a program of research grants
of $20,000 - 40,000 over a period of 4-5 years for young scientists
who return to Africa. Additional programs should be implemented
to foster exchange of personnel in both directions.
- Worldwide responsibility. It
is the moral responsibility of the entire world chemistry community
to join forces to help Africa in building its education and research
capabilities at all levels.
- Bridging the gap between donors and
developing countries. IUPAC might act as an independent, authoritative,
non-governmental, politically neutral body to help with management
and accountability in the distribution of research funds in Africa.
The Union also could contribute its expertise to assist with external
review of research proposals.
- Regional and International Collaboration.
Support must be found for regional cooperation. Intra-African collaboration
is often more limited in scope than is collaboration with countries
outside Africa, because most financial support for collaboration
originates outside the African continent. Development of an electronic
African Journal of Chemistry would increase collaboration
in Africa and develop worldwide recognition for the chemical sciences
on the African continent.
- Problems and challenges of the chemical
industry in Africa. While it is important to curb pollution,
upgrade industrial technology, and facilitate regional and industry-university
cooperation, it is also necessary to develop a "green"
chemical industry. Environmentally and economically viable industry
must be attracted to Africa.
- Environmental chemistry. Issues
of chemistry and the environment were raised in the conference pertaining
to pollution, food, water and health problems. Environmentally benign
chemistry solutions will be sought.
- Science, society and government in
Africa. This issue involves public understanding of science
and government science policy. The building of a critical mass of
scientific activity and the spreading of the message that chemistry
is important for development are crucial. However, while IUPAC's
strategic plan (1998) includes the goal of representing the interests
of chemistry in governmental and non-governmental forums, IUPAC
will not undertake projects involving local governmental policy
development. IUPAC can contribute to the representation of the interests
of the chemical community of Africa in governmental forums organized
through AAPAC-IUPAC collaboration.
- Electronic communications. The
revolution in electronic scientific communications must be brought
to Africa by initially setting up a PC computer network, maintaining
its infrastructure, making databases available and organizing training
programs to help users.
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