Africa has imposed itself, within the framework of the SDGs, an objective of expenditure of the investments in R&D representing 1% of the GDP by 2030. At the dawn of the technological industrial revolution 4.0, this is not enough ambitious. Yet no country on the black continent has been that goal.
By Daouda MBAYE
The call from leaders, such as Thierry Zomahoun, founder and chairman of the Next Einstein Forum from 2013 to 2020, who have always argued that innovation must be a driver of Africa’s development has gone unheeded. Besides, who knows about the Next Einstein Forum in Africa? Few Africans, compared to the notoriety that such an institution should have. Let’s take it a step further… Who has ever heard of the African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMS)? We are referring to this higher education and research institute, created 18 years ago in Muizenberg in South Africa and which has its network in Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and Rwanda which knows! Our best mathematicians should be oriented there. AIMS is not popular enough in my opinion either. I regret that reference is made to Einstein as if to limit his ambitions. And why AIMS which relates to goal in English? Why not an acronym in Swahili, Wolof, Zulu or Yoruba or names of scholars such as Abdou Moumouni from Niger?
Study in your mother tongue… Believe me, it makes the difference!
Unfortunately, the quality of higher education in our countries is so overused that students and / or parents only dream of going abroad, once the Baccalaureate diploma has been acquired. Lately, even China is in the lot … with all that this can generate such as perdition, frustrations … The Lycée Louis le Grand has been in the headlines in recent days between Paris and Dakar …
Like countries which have had the courage to overhaul from top to bottom, going as far as changing the national language and adopting another more Tech, more business, why not adopt the Amharic script everywhere on the continent? and study in their national local language? In the end, it’s all good! The Europe of 27 is all about languages and the European Council in Strasbourg is far from being a Tower of Babel … we communicate and we understand each other well! Africa has a multitude of languages! Certainly ! But of course, that’s a wealth! Study in your mother tongue, write in a system founded by your ancestors? Believe me, it makes the difference!
Cracks to spare
In Africa, again, creativity is found on every street corner. A little history sends us back, if need be, to the fact that knowledge is indeed domiciled there.
Did you know ?
American Thomas Fuller, born in 1710 and died in 1782, was an African slave renowned for his skills in Mathematics. Landed in the USA in 1724 at only 14 years old, he was so good at Maths and famous in mental arithmetic, doing unimaginable calculations. One day when asked how many seconds there were in a year and a half, he answered, in about two minutes, 47,304,000. And how many seconds in seventy years, seventeen days and twelve hours? In a minute and a half, he answers 2,110,500,800.
And these two Kenyan inventors, David Gethu and Moses Keniwa, who created a bionic hand operated by the brain. Created from recycled wood and other materials …
Or Rediet Abebe, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley, who just won the ACM SIGKDD Doctoral Thesis Award, the world’s largest IT organization in 2020.
We could have fun listing them at length, as those who have fun counting African Heroes like to do and posting them on networks to pay tribute to them.
Africa can take this quantum leap
Another area where innovation takes place: the largest diamond producers in Africa are South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and
Democratic Republic of Congo… home to the world’s largest diamond mines. Except for a few timid industries of size to refine this precious stone, which has the level of India or Belgium (Antwerp) in the work of diamonds? Why not finance innovation in this sector?
Today, of the 2 or 3 African countries that are approaching this 1% R&D investment threshold, barely reach 200 researchers per million inhabitants, with sums that do not exceed US $ 800 million .
Now, with the Virtual Private Network, holograms, augmented reality, superconductivity, without thinking of making pale copies of Facebook, Zoom, genetic drugs, Africa can make this quantum leap that would save ecosystems and give more credit to local universities which, as a result, would retain its youth and skills. The sinequa non is to have a real innovation strategy. Unfortunately, reality is often different.