editorial Materials research in Africa can contribute to addressing global challenges by tapping into a growing number of talented scientists. istorically, there have been significant A major challenge is to develop sustainable contributions from Africa in science means of harnessing available resources Hand technology. Intriguingly, one for long-term use. Research into minerals of its major contributions has been in has made major contributions to the globe, metallurgy. Ancient Egyptians experimented particularly as modern societies become with a range of metals including copper increasingly dependent on these resources and tin, eventually mixing them together for use in commodities such as electronics. to form alloys for tools and ornaments However, mineral research is often driven by (pictured). They were so advanced in metal large international corporations rather than working that they developed techniques for local institutions and local management. An Egyptian fresco from a tomb depicting foundry exploration of mineral ores . More recently, Educational institutions such as the Pan men casting bronze. Credit: Granger Historical the African continent has provided a myriad African University (PAU) were set up to Picture Archive/Alamy Stock Photo of discoveries in health, some of which foster fundamental and applied research in are still used in medicines today. Notable areas that are critical to the continent while examples include pain remedies where Bantu also stimulating integration among African tribes used the bark of the Salix capensis tree, scientists . To date there have been five PAU initiatives have also been set up, some of 2 8 which is now used in aspirin . In addition, institutes set up in locations around Africa, which we have previously highlighted . tetracycline in fermented brews was each specializing in thematic areas of water However, there is still a pressing need for consumed by the Sudanese as an antibiotic . and energy, life and Earth sciences, developed countries such as the G7 to Potent extracts are still being discovered in space science and communication, basic get further involved in sustaining such traditional remedies and are slowly being sciences, and governance and humanities institutions . translated to modern medicines. (https://pau-au.net/en/about-us). These According to the recent World Economic The success and ascendency of yesteryear institutions are funded by the host country, Forum and the African Union Summit in has regrettably faded in recent times. This is the African Union and thematic partners, and 2018, it is clear that the challenges in Africa largely driven by a number of factors such as it is envisaged that they will grow to become can be addressed by a shared responsibility unstable economies and political insecurity, major hubs in these areas of research. and commitment to supporting existing which have hampered investment in research Equally important is the need for a enterprises in order to consolidate gains. and development. In a recent report, the platform to showcase the findings of Although there is a long road ahead to tackle World Bank estimated that the allocation of research activities taking place in Africa. To major issues, multinational institutions such funds for research in sub-Saharan Africa is address this concern in materials science, as PAU and platforms such as the AMRS less than 1% of the gross domestic product the African Materials Research Society and JUAMI are instrumental to the materials in the majority of countries . This is reflected (AMRS) was set up to identify opportunities research community in Africa, which can in the African scientific output, currently for collaboration between Africa, the US and have an impact on the rest of the world. sitting at less than 5% of the total number of the rest of the world to advance materials Moreover, the eagerness of the youthful scientific publications, and largely driven by science research. Since its inaugural meeting population and awareness of such initiatives international collaborations. Reassuringly, in Dakar, Senegal, in 2002, the AMRS has will undoubtedly garner enthusiasm that will however, this figure seems to have doubled grown substantially to a biennial event, with lead to research activities capable of tackling over a decade from 2002 to 2013 in all areas the recent meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, grand challenges, ultimately boosting of research, thanks to initiatives that aim to attended by over 500 delegates from 45 African economies and wellbeing. ❐ improve the scientific output. For example, in countries worldwide. Nature Materials 2014, the World Bank set up the Partnership has highlighted the AMRS previously , and Published online: 21 February 2018 for Skills in Applied Science, Engineering and by Benjamin Hsiao and colleagues on https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-018-0037-1 Technology (PASET) to help governments page 213 of this issue. The conference in sub-Saharan Africa accelerate investment showcased a diverse range of topics within References in science and technology, and subsequently materials science research centred on energy, 1. Scheel, B. Egyptian Metalworking and Tools (Shire, Aylesbury, 1989). elevate a knowledge-based society water, health, nanotechnology, mining, 2. van Sertima, I. in African Renaissance: The New Struggle (ed. Makgoba, M. W.) 305–330 (Tafelberg, Cape Town, 1999). (https://www.worldbank.org/paset). computational materials science 3. Nelson, M. L., Dinardo, A., Hochberg, J. & Armelagos, G. J. Moreover, increased support from and education. Strikingly, an initiative Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 143, 151–154 (2010). governments in Africa to fund national that was borne out of the AMRS is the Joint 4. Lan, G. et al. A Decade of Development in Sub-Saharan African Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Research institutions is also required to significantly US–Africa Materials Institute (JUAMI), (World Bank Group, Washington DC, 2014). impact research. A good example is the which offers workshops for students 5. Woods, D., Padayachee, A., Chanie, P. & Olsson, Å. Case Study: Botswana Institute for Technology Research from Africa and the US to identify global Pan-African University (OECD, Paris, 2013). http://go.nature. com/2EspKRO and Innovation, which is contributing challenges and utilize materials research 7 6. Chaker, M. & Rosei, F. Nat. Mater. 11, 187–188 (2012). significantly to research and education in to address them . These workshops have 7. W enderott, J. MRS Bull. 41, 632–633 (2016). Botswana, particularly for materials science been successful at harnessing the potential 8. van den Brink, J. & Snyman, I. Nat. Mater. 6, 792–793 (2007). (https://www.bitri.co.bw/cms). of scientific talent. Other institutions and 9. Nat. Mater. 4, 711 (2005). Nature Materials | VOL 17 | MARCH 2018 | 209 | www.nature.com/naturematerials © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
Nature Materials – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 21, 2018
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