There are many problems on the African continent, not the least of which are poverty and infectious disease, but these problems shouldn't stop African science ministers from investing in science, writes Martyn Poliakoff, the new foreign secretary of the UK's Royal Society, in New Scientist. Earlier this year, Poliakoff says, several African science ministers agreed to start "an African decade of science."
Also, collaborations between African researchers and other researchers on and off the continent could be the "linchpin of further scientific success in Africa," he adds, both for help with funding and for mentorship. And public funding of science could be an impetus for economic growth in Africa, and help the countries address health-care and sustainable agriculture problems. "We cannot tell Africa what science it needs to do but we can help it to develop that agenda. It has to be set by its public, policy-makers, governments and scientists together," Poliakoff says. "Despite the many hurdles ahead, one thing is certain: scientific research must become as much a part of Africa's long-term development as building roads, vaccinating children and improving education."