The advances in material well-being, quality and length of life enjoyed by much of humanity during the past few centuries have been made possible by the scientific revolution and the technologies and innovations that it has enabled. In my view, capacity in basic scientific research is inseparable from the economic development and medical advances that Africa seeks. Economic development is dependent upon innovation, which is dependent upon technological expertise, which depends in turn upon the application of scientific research, and how can you apply science effectively without the underpinning that comes from fundamental research? Likewise, modern medicine depends upon techniques based on advances in physics, chemistry and biology. A ‘cargo cult’ approach that relies on expertise and technologies imported from elsewhere would stunt Africa’s possibilities for economic growth and wellbeing. For this reason, I think that developing Africa’s capacities in fundamental scientific research is essential.
This can proceed via a two-pronged approach: research in local African institutions such as universities and national laboratories, and research in international partnerships with countries outside Africa. One example of the latter include participation in experiments at CERN, which has welcomed individual students from many African countries and has institutional partnerships with research groups in Morocco, South Africa and Egypt. SKF is proud to have been able to partner Morocco in developing its research capacity in fundamental physics, and is happy now to be proposing a similar partnership to the Palestinian physics community. SKF has also been consistent in its support of the SESAME project that brings together scientists from across the MENA region. Particularly exciting is the construction of SKA across several countries in Southern Africa in partnership with scientists in Europe and North America, and SKF hopes to be able to support this project in the future. These promising developments in fundamental research must be accompanied by measures to connect the research base with the innovation and entrepreneurial communities across Africa, and this is also one of the prime objectives of SKF.
Prof. John Ellis