Raising the Voice of Science in Africa
In an interview, Victor Anomah Ngu -- a retired surgeon and the current president of the Cameroon Academy of Sciences -- discussed this week's meeting in Nairobi as well as next steps. Cameroon's academy will host the 2006 ASADI conference in Yaounde.
Why did your academy want to participate in this initiative?
Development in Africa [should be] based on science. …But the scientific aspect of development is missing. The academies should be involved.
What can the African Science Academy Development Initiative really accomplish in participating countries?
It can reinforce the academies of science -- physically and financially and human resource-wise. … And hopefully, it can help the African academies to be able to fully create their roles [so that] they can have credibility with their governments and with their industries and the public. Their opinion can begin to count.
The 10-year ASADI project is supported by a $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If you personally had $20 million to freely spend on efforts to amplify the voice of science in Africa, what things would you do?
The first part, of course, is doing what ASADI is trying to do: reinforce the academies of science. And if I had some money left over, I'd make it possible for all of the African scientists who are now abroad to come back to work in Africa; or, those who are in Africa, to stay in Africa. Their knowledge would be useful for development.
What did you get out of this week's meeting?
I did learn a few new tricks -- strategic planning and all of those kinds of things in which we used to stumble around without [an adequate level of] planning and organization. In other words, a scientific academy needs to be run like a good business.
What two or three things will you do next week to keep this ball rolling?
We'll prepare, work out a plan [for next year's meeting in Cameroon] -- …not quite what was done this time because it can never be the same. …We want to make the programs move forward. Clearly, this is not the end of the story. This is the beginning.
-- Interview conducted by Vaneé Vines, senior media relations officer, U.S. National Academies