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A plea for a revival of research in developing countries


The Académie des sciences has just submitted its 21st science and technology report to the French government. The report looks at science in developing countries, particularly in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa. It was coordinated by François Gros, and involved more than 35 contributors. CIRAD participated in the working group (P. Debré, M. Griffon, C. Freud) and in several chapters on Franco-African agricultural research (F. Maraux), food and nutrition (N. Bricas), animal resources and health (B. Lesaffre) and human health (P. Debré).

The report is both a diagnosis of the state of the sector and the related issues and a plea for an ambitious drive to foster Franco- and Euro-African cooperation aimed at building the continent’s research capacity. The initial diagnosis looks alarming: while the report rejects the prevailing "Afropessimism", it recognizes the collapse of African research capacity over the past 20 years or so (part I). With 10% of the world’s population, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for just 0.7% of scientific publications. The second part of the report goes on to review the issues for research and the French position in relation to scientific and technical development in Africa concerning several major topics: mathematics and the physical sciences, including information technologies, the life and health sciences, the agricultural sciences, food and natural resources, and the human and social sciences.

The third part is devoted to an analysis of the "conditions for a revival", stressing the role of research in development and that it would be in France’s interests to revive scientific cooperation with developing countries and with Africa in particular. Over and above international solidarity, such cooperation is fast becoming a necessity, given the global issues related to the scientific challenges facing developing countries. The report considers that French scientific cooperation is both inadequate and insufficiently structured, and proposes the creation of a national agency or committee for research in developing countries.

With its 360 pages and its annexes, the report is both a reference and a resource for use in defending the merits and the necessity of cooperative research.

Helen Burford | alfa
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