What’s stopping young African scientists from achieving their potential

Young African scientists

Young African scientists face persistent barriers which cause them to leave their own countries, and even academia. This means the continent’s workforce loses highly trained people who are crucial for scientific and technological advancement, and for economic development.

It’s estimated that 20,000 highly educated professionals leave the continent annually, with up to 30% of Africa’s scientists among them.

A number of factors contribute to this trend. The extreme factors include war and political instability. But the more common “pushes” are a desire for higher pay, better opportunities, and the search for a conducive research environment – one where infrastructure and management help drive careers and research potential.

Movement of survey respondents within and out of Africa over the last 10 years. Generated by Hsin-Chou Yang and Chia-Wei. Not publicly available

To identify all the barriers and develop strategies to address them, the Global Young Academy – an organisation of 200 talented young scientists and over 200 alumni from 83 countries – established the Global State of Young Scientists (GloSYS) Africa project. Working with local research partners and international higher education experts, the project aims to identify the challenges and motivations that shape young scientists’ career trajectories.

Our initial findings point to a lack of mentoring, resources and funding as key issues young scientists face across the continent. Using this data, we will be able to identify critical areas in which young scientists need support and develop innovative strategies to alleviate these challenges.

The project comes at an important time as, over the past few years, African countries have initiated programmes to increase the number of PhD graduates. But if governments don’t simultaneously develop support structures for graduates, and increase access to critical teaching and research infrastructure, these young scientists are set up to fail

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