An estimated 300 delegates from across Africa descended upon Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week for a major UNESCO research summit. The two-day gathering gave representatives from UNESCO nations the opportunity to share their perspectives on key topics for African researchers, and to identify areas of possible advancement in the continent’s scientific research sector.
Highlighting the variety and extent of Africa’s research undertaken over the past five years, figures presented at the summit show that in 2018, five countries on the continent (Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Tunisia) accounted for half of all scientific articles published. Remarkably, at least one in ten publications originated from farmers and citizens – signifying an encouraging shift towards more people-centric research.
Africa remains a major source of biodiversity: its unique cultures, landscapes and languages have often been overlooked, or reduced to symbols of exoticism in media sources. At this summit, representatives called for more interdisciplinary approaches to research. Lenga Auma Ebcube, a director at Kenya’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, expressed hope that ‘future multidisciplinary our researches are enhanced by interaction between domains such as sciences, economics, ecology and anthropology.’
In attempts to bridge the ‘data gap’ – an underrepresentation of African research within international databases – participants emphasised the importance of making knowledge accessible through open access platforms such as those hosted by UNESCO-IFRO. Furthermore, numerous discussions focused on ways to further utilise big data generated from Africa’s multiple sources.
Overall, the UNESCO research summit served as an important platform for discussion of contemporary African challenges, and produced exciting progress that promises to have a lasting impact on science within the continent.
The global UNESCO research summit in Africa brought together some of the top minds and influential figures in the world to discuss the most pressing issues facing our Eastern homeland. From science and innovation, to advancing education and cultural exchange, the summit provided an opportunity to explore how these fields could help improve the quality of life for people living in the region.
At the summit, delegates were presented with reports and findings from recent research conducted by several UNESCO projects. Most notably, reports on the usage of renewable energy sources to reduce emissions, and the importance of investing in STEM education for future generations, were showcased.
The summit was also a great platform for like-minded people from across the African continent to come together, share ideas and network. Participants included government officials, researchers, students, local innovators and entrepreneurs to name a few.
Overall, this research summit demonstrated the great potential of collective collaboration when seeking solutions to regional problems. As our world transitions into a digital age with cutting-edge technologies at our disposal, collaboration between academics, industry leaders and policy-makers is absolutely essential.
This summit is just one example of how scientific research can benefit society at large; however, it is up to those in power to ensure that such initiatives reach those who need them most. Such events should be routinely organized around the world if we are to progress as a species and make real progress towards a brighter tomorrow.