We have a new blogger in our team. Dr. Solomon Agbo joined Forschungszentrum Jülich in 2015 as a Postdoctoral fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation and worked on monolithic integration of energy harvesters with storage batteries at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK-5). Since June he works in the International relations unit where he is responsible for cooperations with Africa. Here comes his first blog post about “Research and Future of Africa”.
Africa is speedily emerging on every front: economically, politically and technologically. All the relevant indices portray a continent that is the next emerging market with its teeming population that is nearly 50% young people with a median age of 19 years. Africa is also blessed with natural resources ranging from oil and natural gas to mineral deposits like diamond, gold, uranium, copper etc. almost across the continent. The lands are sufficiently arable for a sustainable bioeconomy and food production to sustain the population. Generally, the African climate is still green with many of the forests and parks still in their natural state. I can go on counting the numerous natural endowments which nature has bestowed on Africa. It is in no doubt, “Africa flows with milk and honey”.
I have always been puzzled each time I have had to ponder on the state of the African continent. Here is the puzzle: how can a people be so blessed yet live in poverty and penury?. Why are the people hungry when their lands flow with milk and honey? Why is it that almost half the youth population are unemployed?. How can it be explained that an average African lives for just about 55 years in such a God-blessed habitat?. Is there an explanation for why the rich natural endowment has not translated to any meaningful baseline standard of living for the common man?. Your guess perhaps as good as mine: Africa has evolved into a complex entity with many complex facets of challenges besieging it; ranging from poor education system, corruption within the political class, poor resource management, inter-tribal conflicts among others.
Is there hope for Africa? Yes!. The hope of Africa lies in arming her young population with good education, opening their eyes to discover opportunities in and around them and equipping them to be globally competitive and relevant. Unfortunately, education in Africa, especially in the sub-Saharan region, still lags behind in comparison to western education. Lack of well-trained experts, lack of funding and facilities for education and research are some of the factors to be blamed for this. There are many young enthusiastic Africans who are desirous to unlock their potentials by acquiring good education and training hence in position to support themselves and pursue their career dreams. A comprehensive approach to support research in Africa is critically needed now. I can say without mincing words that herein lies the future and hope for Africa. This must be driven by the leaders of the African countries supported by the private sector through investment in research as an indispensable way of creating conducive atmosphere for the young people to put their brains to work. Sustainable future for Africa cannot be built on foreign aids nor on being a consumption-driven market. Africa must look inwards via science-driven research to use what it has in the best way to get what it needs for the now and for the future. Partners are needed who sincerely identify with the challenges facing Africa and are willing to join hands with the people in joint research cooperation initiatives in addressing these issues. This is the only way to reduce youth unemployment and rising crime and violence among young people.
This can provide an answer to the massive exodus of young people from the continent in search of greener pasture abroad either as economic refugees or illegal immigrants.
The Pan-African Soil Challenge (PASCAL) project of Forschungszentrum Jülich in no small measure addresses the above gap in training and research in Africa. This is a great initiative that will empower young African scientists in the field of geosciences and bioeconomy with the ability to understand the interaction between plants and the soil components. “Kudos” to the brains behind this initiative and the general science bridge concept in Forschungszentrum Jülich. I am hopeful that this is only the beginning as the research centre is open to using the wealth of her expertise to provide support to young African scientists thus preparing them to take leadership role in driving sustainable development within the continent.