Science commercialization is still marginal in Africa, despite uptick in cross-border research networks

Sub-Saharan Africa is set to double in population by 2050, which translates into a growing demand for quality youth formation in Africa. This trend equally translates into a greater need of the professor corps as well as science commercialization specialists.

Currently, Africa counts some 8 scientists/engineers per 100,000 people compared to some 15, 250 and 400 in Brazil, Europe and USA respectively. For the continent to achieve even the world average for the number of researchers per head of population, it will need to rapidly train one million new PhDs.

A quick search with Dr Google produces a number of collectives that — powered by intra-and extra-African partnership — aim to tackle the issue of lack of researchers.

The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa is an initiative of the African Academy of Sciences and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency. AESA is leading the African Academy of Sciences’ STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) efforts to implement capacity building, mentorship and networking programmes that promote scientific research and ensure that higher education systems are equipped to meet the demand for STEM education.

The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa is a collaboration jointly led by the African Population and Health Research Center, Kenya, and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa to rebuild and strengthen the capacity of African universities to locally produce well-trained and skilled researchers and scholars.

Led by academics and science research managers, and funded by charitable foundations and international development agencies, such science collectives lack a business component. More African and non-African experts in African marketing, logistics and commercialization need to be part of the conversation for Africa-based researchers to really get a boost and multiply. More science-led startup incubators and tech parks need to pop up all across the continent.