20 June 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: New Science Academy Established

Photo: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS
Poverty means many households cannot afford school fees ...

Kinshasa — Researchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have established an Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology for Innovation (ACASTI).

The academy was launched in Kinshasa last month (9 May), at a ceremony entitled 'Today's Science for the Development of DRC Tomorrow'. It will particularly focus on the coordination of scientific research into natural resources to boost economic development.

The academy's board president, Taba Kalulu Muzele, told SciDev.Net that it also aims "to contribute to the progress of science, art and literature, and ensure the visibility abroad of research carried out in different parts of DRC".

The academy will also supervise the development of research and reference teaching institutes, with a view to inspiring young Congolese people to consider careers in science. It will be established as an independent, non-profit, non-political body endowed with civil status, and will have administrative and financial autonomy.

Its financing will be drawn from members' contributions, donations, legacies, and support from the Ministry of Scientific Research.

As well as academic membership, the academy can also confer honorary membership, for example to "an individual or civil benefactor interested in scientific research in DRC," Taba said.

He said ACASTI would seek to forge collaborations with international expertsdistinguished in their field.

The academy's first major activity will be to hold a congress by the end of 2012 to highlight of progress and scientific research outputs made in DRC since independence in 1960.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Research in DRC, told SciDev.Net that scientific research was almost non-existent in the country, due to low researcher numbers, low levels of state funding and a brain drain problem.

This resulted in "ignorance", which in turn contributed to high poverty levels.

"If there is harmony between governmental authorities, the population and researchers, the country will take off," Muyembe said - adding that by carrying out and making available the results of scientific research, ACASTI would encourage policymakers to "adjust their [policy] decisions".

Eusèbe Alihonou, dean of the University of Benin's heath sciences faculty, also praised the academy's establishment.

"It will enable the gathering of researchers' findings and contribute to the country's development," Alihonou said.

But Kouadio Germain N'Guessan from the University of Cocody-Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, warned that ACASTI was not the only solution to the challenges facing DRC's researchers - noting that better planning and more funding were also needed.

Most importantly, he told SciDev.Net, "researchers' financial plights need to be revisited, to stop the brain drain and develop a training system for young researchers".

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