ASSAf News

The following Call to African scientists and innovators was written by a collective of African intellectuals who published an open letter in April 2020 addressed to African leaders on the new coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter published last April, we called upon African leaders to craft careful, contextualized and bold responses to the coronavirus pandemic, to reject mimicry, to govern with compassion and, above all, to turn the current crisis facing humanity into an opportunity for a change of policy direction, and to rely first and foremost on Africa’s human and material resources.

We are a growing collective of intellectuals from the African continent and its diaspora. In order to advance our project, it is important to us to involve scientists and innovators in the long-term reflection and work we have embarked upon. For the emancipatory project we are calling for can only be achieved through a transdisciplinary approach that mobilizes, in a constructive dialogue, all the intellectual resources available in the Arts and Letters, the humanities, the social and hard sciences.

We believe that the realization of a desired future for Africa must necessarily rely on the scientific imagination and the technical competency of Africans at home and in the diaspora. We must insist that endogenous forms of knowledge and conventional science must be equally fostered. Despite the structural suppression of the creativity of Africa’s scientists, despite a research environment that is often plagued by inadequate policies and, above all, the lack of trust of African leaders in African expertise, the explosion of creativity amid the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is an impressive reminder of the extraordinary reserves of knowledge and potential in our continent. Examples abound, of remarkable scientific production and promising, even revolutionary innovations that have been ignored or undervalued on the continent or which have sometimes been more successful outside of Africa.

Beyond immediate concerns linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the continent is regularly confronted with numerous health challenges for which a robust collective response is needed. Many diseases could have been eradicated from the continent, or seen their lethal impact significantly reduced if the health of Africans had been conceived as a basic public good and a priority in state policies, on a par with basic education and the eradication of illiteracy through instruction in African languages. After sixty years of independence, this situation can no longer be allowed to prevail. Medical care should be provided to Africans in a sovereign manner by the health authorities of the continent. The latter should be able to take advantage of both the advances in modern medicine and the extensive wealth of African pharmacopoeia and endogenous knowledge.

Economic development is another major undertaking that requires the mobilization of the entire community of African scientists and innovators. As we all know, Africa does not have a shortage of resources. However, the nature and extent of these resources are poorly understood. By and large, resources are exploited in a way that is detrimental to the continent’s prosperity and advancement. Imported equipment and techniques are not always adapted to African contexts and their adoption tends to create structural forms of technological and financial dependency. An inventory of all available resources, techniques and knowledge is in our view the first step in a collective effort to direct scientific research and technological innovations for a better management of, and greater sovereignty over our resources. For example, food and energy self-sufficiency must be a strategic priority on the agenda of African governments, individually and collectively.

What kind of assessment should be carried out to update data on ground and underground resources, oceans and rivers? What types of skills are needed to develop these natural resources? What types of vocational and technical training are required in order to build the appropriate human resources? What education systems are needed to bring Africa up to date with developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, molecular revolution and Big Data? What should be the role of digital technology in economic development strategies? What techniques, technologies and equipment should be designed for the development of agricultural, artisanal and industrial production of goods and services? What model should be used to identify the needs of the different countries, their natural resources, their production levels, etc. in order to work out potential complementarities with a view to promoting trade and knowledge transfer at the continental level? How to rethink land-use planning schemes beyond a classical functional hierarchy of human settlements? What types of animal and plant production systems are needed to sustainably feed an African population that is expected to represent about 40% of humanity by 2100? What types of mix of conventional and alternative energy use can be developed in a context whereby ecological constraints are becoming increasingly acute? What type of industrialization should be promoted in a world where competitiveness is strongly linked to the optimization of production processes based on low-cost energy supply and the use of a systemic approach to the development of value chains? What actions should be taken to support African countries in the production of basic medical supplies (alcohol, compresses, cotton, syringes, aspirin, chloroquine, etc.) and to reduce dependency on imported drugs? What is the state of the art of African medicine, pharmacopoeia and endogenous knowledge and how can we use these with the same scientific rigor used for modern medicine and pharmacy? What would be a pan-African strategy for dealing with climate change and its consequences in a continent that has thus far contributed little to global carbon dioxide emissions but has nonetheless become an ecological dumping ground for the rest of the world?

These are some important and interdependent questions to which Africa will have to find urgent, inclusive, and long-term responses.

This is a call to refocus scientific reflection and innovation around African needs and priorities. It is not a call for African science to turn inward. For all the challenges facing the human species are also challenges for our continent. As the cradle of humanity, Africa has, over its long, multi-millenary history always contributed to the scientific and cultural fund of the world. Its scientific institutions must increase in number and relevance and be better supported by public authorities. In this way, they will be able to engage all relevant fields of research and benefit fully from partnerships with global counterparts. With this in mind, every effort should be made to encourage African women to pursue scientific careers and to hold positions of responsibility.

Taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the coronavirus pandemic, we therefore call on all scientists and innovators from the continent and the diaspora. We encourage them to join us so that we can work together to fulfill the exciting mission of emancipating our beloved continent. Building shared prosperity on the basis of equality and respect for the dignity of all is within our reach. Let us, for once, work together and head to the same direction. Let us be emboldened by lessons taken from our vast historical experience and rich in cultural heritage which we have a responsibility to revitalize both for our collective survival as a free people and for the salvation of all humanity.

To sign the Call, please use this link: https://bit.ly/3cOdYPM 

Contact: Pr. Aboubaker Chédikh Beye (aboubaker.beye[at]ucad.edu.sn), Dr. Lionel Zevounou (Paris Nanterre University, lionel.zevounou[at]parisnanterre.fr), Dr. Amy Niang (University of the Witwatersrand, amy.niang[at]wits.ac.za), Dr. Ndongo Samba Sylla (Dakar, nsssylla[at]gmail.com)

List of signatories

Pr. Felix DAPARA, Plant and Soil Biotechnology, President of the African Academy of Science 

Pr. Souleymane MBOUP, Pharmacology and Biology, Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar 

Pr. Malik MAAZA, UNESCO Chair in Nanosciences/Nanotechnology, University of South Africa  

Pr. Lyoussi BADIAÂ, Pharmacology and Environmental Health, Fès University, Maroc 

Pr. Kossi NAPO, UNESCO Chair in Renewable Energies, Lome University  

Pr. M. N. HOUNKONNOU, International Chair in Mathematical Physics and Applications, UNESCO Chair, Abomey-Calavi University, Benin 

Pr. Bruno ETO, Department of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences, Lille

Dr Sophie DABO, Mathematics, Lille University 

Pr. Mahamoud Youssouf KHAYAL, Physics and Energetics, University of Ndjamena 

Pr. Osseo ASARE, Material Science and Engineering, PennState College of Earth and Mineral Sciences 

Pr. Adel BOUHOULA, Founding President of the Tunisian Association of Digital Security 

Dr. Cecil KINGONDU, Botswana International University of Science and Technology 

Pr. Ibrahima NDOYE, Plant Biology, Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar 

Pr. Mohamed HAFIDI, Agrosciences and Environment, Cadi Ayyad University, Morocco 

Pr Ahmed LEBRIHI, National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse 

Pr. Omar ASSOBHEI, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdelilah University of Fès 

Dr Flory LIDINGA, Higher Institute of Applied Technology, DRC 

Dr. Hamrouni LAMIA, Forest Biotechnology, Carthage University 

Pr. Diola BAGAYOKO, Physics, Southern University and A&M College Baton Rouge

Pr. Timothée NSONGO, Geology and Mines, Marien Ngouabi University 

Pr. Thomas TAMO TATIETSE, Civil Engineering and Design Sciences, Yaounde I University  

Dr. Lem Edith ABONGWA, Medical Microbiology, Bamenda University, Cameroon 

Dr Jules T. ASSIH, Civil Engineering, Reims University 

Dr. Kya Abraham BERTHE, Ecole Nationale d'Ingénieurs Abderhamane Baba Toure, Bamako

Pr. Samba NDIAYE, Computer Mathematics, Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar 

Pr. Ncholu MANYALA, Physics, Carbon Technology and Materials, University of Pretoria 

Pr. Peter Apata OLUBAMBI, Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg 

Dr. Hichem SEBAI, Nutrition and Animal Physiology, Jendouba University, Tunis 

Pr. Benjamin Longo MENZA, Clinical Pharmacology, Walter Sidulu University 

Pr. Victor KUETE, Pharmacognosy, Dschang University, Cameroon 

Pr. Abderrahim ZIYYAT, Physiology and Pharmacology, Mohammed I University, Oujda, Morocco 

Pr. Abderrahmane ROMANE, Applied Chemistry, Caddi Ayyad University, Morocco 

Pr. Vincent P.K. TITANJI, Biology and Biochemistry, Buea University, Cameroon 

Pr. Mmantsae DIALE, Solar Energy Research, University of Pretoria 

Pr. Nasrrddine YOUBI, Geology-Volcanology-Geochemistry, Cadi Ayyad University, Morocco 

Dr. Ngarmoundou NGARGOTO, Science and Engineering, Polytechnic University of Mongo, Chad 

Pr. David BOA, Thermodynamics and Physical Chemistry, Nangui Abrogoua University, Ivory Coast 

Dr. Malachy Ifeanyi OKEKE, Virology, American University of Nigeria   

Abdoulaye GOURO, Veterinary Medicine, CIRDES, Burkina Faso 

Mouhamadou SALL, Central Polytechnic School of Engineering, Dakar 

Pr. Aboubaker Chédikh BEYE, Physics and Material Sciences, Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar