Africa’s contribution to scientific research is far behind compared to many other regions in the world, including developing countries in Asia (1). With a global population of 12.5%, Sub-Saharan Africa global share of research output was 0.7% in 2013 (2). Sub-Saharan Africa has a very low number of qualified researchers compared to other regions (3). As of 2013, it was estimated that there were only 91 (FTE) researchers per million inhabitants in Sub-Saharan Africa – low in comparison to other regions on the continent, such as North Africa with 495 researchers per million inhabitants (3), let alone the rest of the world.
What is hindering research in Africa?
There are multiple issues which affect research and development across Africa (see fig. 1 below).
A major problem researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa face is unstable and inequitable funding (4,6). Funding plays a key role in the progression of research (2). For instance, South Africa has been able to steadily increase its research output since 2000, as a result of increased funding (2). The same cannot be said for other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Studies have shown that most funding reaching Africa is from external sources (2,6). For example, a survey from 2008 claimed that 90% of funding for five African countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zambia) within the field of health research came from external sources (9). Zofou, Denis et al. claimed that only 16.92% of researchers based in their home country receive 100% financial support from their host institution, while 63.08% of those based in their home country receive no financial support at all (6).
The lack of resources and recognition of the importance to invest in higher education and research programs are additional obstacles faced by researchers in Africa (6). For instance, scientific researchers in Africa have highlighted a lack of infrastructure, such as laboratories and computers, and lack of expertise in preparing manuscripts for publication as major obstacles for their research work (4,6).
Other problems include lack of access to scientific papers and publication and frequent faculty/institution strikes (6). Limiting factors to such resources include inadequate internet access or connection problems, frequent power failure, and/or lack of funding to cover the costs (6).
Governmental instability in many African countries can also impair international collaborations, which in turn can affect research output, since many scientific researchers in Africa are dependent on international collaborations (2). This is especially true for West & Central Africa (2).
These obstacles can push many African researchers to leave their home continent for a career abroad (2,6).
The question is therefore
That’s where we come in.