4 October 2013

Africa: Plans for Phd Fellowships Unveiled At Twas Meeting

Buenos Aires — South-South collaboration to increase PhD fellowships for scientists in developing countries gained momentum as this week's annual meeting of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) ended with the announcement of various programmes for the coming years.

The organisation, which held its 24th annual meeting in Argentina this week (1-4 October), has made training young scientists a priority of its mission to build science capacity and excellence in developing countries.

India, for example, announced it would provide 125 fellowships in total for Sub-Saharan African students to take PhDs in the country in a programme due to start next year. The total cost of the initiative is US$3.3 million for five years, Thirumalachari Ramasami, head of India's science and technology department, told SciDev.Net.

Derek Hanekom, South Africa's minister for science and technology, told the meeting that his government would sponsor around 100 fellowships in total for students from developing countries to study for PhDs in South Africa.

The academy's strong interest in promoting these programmes is partly due to TWAS's executive director Romain Murenzi, who has been lobbying to increase the number of new PhDs as a way of enhancing developing nations' capacity to compete globally.

Research tells "us that investment in new knowledge brings economic growth," he said. While Switzerland produces 150 PhD students per million inhabitants every year, South Africa only turns out around 30, which Murenzi thinks weakens its ability to compete in the knowledge economy.

"But they have understood that and now the government has a mandate to achieve a rate of over 100 PhD graduates [per million inhabitants] per year by 2030," Murenzi tells SciDev.Net.

The Rwandan scientist believes one of the keys to improving scientists' training is mobility, especially between developing countries, as this boosts capacity building.

Earlier this year, TWAS announced new agreements with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) - led by Bai Chunli, who is also TWAS's president - the World Meteorological Organization, Putra University, Malaysia, and Pakistan's National Centre for Physics that will increase the number of fellowships.

The CAS-TWAS fellowship programme will cost US$3.3 million a year and allow up to 140 early-career scientists a year to study at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and CAS institutes.

Another announcement is expected today, the last day of the meeting, on a TWAS partnership with the Argentinean government to provide a further 30 doctoral fellowships.

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