Sub Saharan African needs to invest in research
As sub Saharan’s economies matures and moves higher up the value chain, it will no longer be able to rely on its rich natural resources and robust domestic consumption. If the continent wants to realize its ambition of being a top global regional economy by 2030, it will have to innovate and create its own technology. For this to happen, the continent needs researchers and scientists who can carry out cutting-edge research in medicine, pharmaceuticals, consumer products and social trends. African countries need only look at China and India to see how far they have advanced due to investments in research. Closer to home, South Africa spend a considerable chunk of their budget on research. The rainbow nation, for example, has developed world-class biotechnology research labs and attracts global talent to work in the labs.
Where do other African countries stand on research and innovation? Sadly the continent only spends 0.2 percent of its GDP on research a year. I was shocked when a researcher with Ph.D.’s informed me that he was being paid $1000 a month and the researcher was quick to point out that the East African region will not attract the best brains if the people in power do not value their talent. East African countries alone will need some 350,000 additional researchers in the next ten years across the sciences in order to catch up with the rate of technological advance in Europe and Asia with strong research programs.At present, the number of researchers in African countries is insignificant. This means the government and the private sector must do more to promote the sciences and invest in new research facilities. Currently there are only a handful of such facilities in the East Africa and other sub Saharan African region and if this situation is not rectified, in the longer term it will affect economic growth and social progress.