The Republic of South Sudan formally became independent from Sudan last week (9 July), but its three universities remain closed, bereft of staff, students or facilities.
The universities moved to the north in the early 1990s, when civil war was at its worst in the south. They were supposed to have relocated by now, with lectures due to have begun in the south in early May.
But South Sudan's government has raised only half of the US$12 million it needs to build and refurbish lecture halls, laboratories and student accommodation, according to Mou Mou Athian Koul, undersecretary for the South Sudan Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology.
The north dominates Sudanese research at the moment but that could gradually change if international sanctions are lifted for the newly-independent south, said Hassan Hussein Musa, of the University of Nyala in Darfur.
A swing in funding to the south might allow northern researchers to do research for which they have hitherto lacked international funding — if they would cooperate with their southern counterparts, Dia-Eldin Elnaiem, an ecologist at the University of Khartoum, told Nature Middle East.
Ahmed El-Hassan, a medical researcher at the University of Khartoum, believes a joint research agency would be a good start, and would help establish good relations between the two countries.
Meanwhile, local topics urgently in need of research, such as surging levels of leishmaniasis, go untackled, he said.