African scientists have critical role in saving continent – Prof. Turok


With the myriad of challenges the continent is plagued with – especially in areas of health, economy, education, agriculture and infrastructure, Founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) NEI and Higgs Chair of Theoretical Physics at the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Neil Turok, has called on African scientists globally to stand up and develop home-grown solutions to the problems.

The South-African-born UK-based scientist stated that most of the current challenges to humanity the world over result from scientific failure or wrongful application of science, though science is supposed to be the world-changer.

He therefore urged scientists of African descent to take a critical look at the continent and begin to develop tailored solutions to problems on the continent, as the ‘western world’ is also mostly focused on inventions that solve their own challenges.

“My statement today is that we need to get African representatives into science because they understand the problems better, and therefore getting into science means they will do something better for their communities. So, the African scientist has a crucial role to play in solving the continent’s problems.

“For instance, if you take a scientist from California and one from Africa, who is more likely to think about developing solutions for farmers or people suffering from a disease in a small village on the continent? And this is the reason why Africa needs scientists to solve its problems,” he said.

Touching on the impact of science on the world, he said: “The world has used science to create magnificent inventions like automobiles, robotics, medicines, among others, but we are not protecting the planet.

“We are destroying the future; emissions of gasses into the atmosphere every day are endangering the climate, and even the COVID-19 pandemic is a result of agriculture not being managed well – hence we have seen several occasions of diseases from wildlife spreading to human beings, like Ebola, monkeypox etc., and we are going to see more of these if we do not change something about it.”

He alluded that science is growing faster than ever, and is getting more and more powerful – but is not being used wisely to the benefit of people living in abject poverty or remote Africa.

He reiterated the need to control the way science is used – because it is currently being used to create weapons, nuclear bombs and man-made diseases in laboratories among others for personal gain and to harm the human race.

Role of Governments on the continent

The UK-based professor mentioned that governments on the continent have a huge role to play in producing scientists for the continent to solve problems affecting their people.

He said almost all the great scientists globally are white, old men who were supported by their governments to study and become scientists who are transforming their home countries and continents.

“Creating opportunities for the youth is the single most important thing any government can do, and they all know this – but unfortunately they are not channeling resources into that important aspect. Governments must begin to support and fund the youth to study advanced sciences which can produce inventors and world-class scientists for the continent to solve the problems we have here,” he said.

He added that youth on the African continent are more determined and zealous for science and innovation than those from other parts of the world, hence the need to give them helping means to develop their talents and showcase their vision to the world.

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