Students work at a laboratory at the Catholic University of Graben in Butembo EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP/Getty Images

Strengthening African Science

Any good leader knows that scientific discovery and innovation fuels progress, facilitates development, and can help tackle issues like food insecurity, water shortages, and climate change. And yet most African governments are failing to fund research and development adequately in their countries.

URBANA, ILLINOIS – In late March, Africa’s leading scientists, innovators, and policymakers met in Kigali, Rwanda, to brainstorm solutions to an increasingly pressing problem: the low quality of science on the continent.

Any good leader knows that scientific discovery and innovation fuels progress, facilitates development, and can help tackle issues like food insecurity, water shortages, and climate change. And yet most African governments are failing to fund research and development adequately in their countries. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa spend, on average, just 0.5% of GDP on research and development. In the West, the share is closer to 3%.

This disparity underscores the development challenges that Africans face. Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population and 5% of its GDP, but accounts for a paltry 1.3% of total research spending. Moreover, African inventors hold just 0.1% of the world’s patents, meaning that even when money is spent on science, innovation, and research, the findings rarely translate into solutions for the continent’s most immediate challenges.

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