African countries such as Ethiopia, with few or no local oil fields and rapidly expanding populations with increasing demands for chemicals, could look to 'green chemistry' to meet their needs, write Nigist Asfaw and colleagues in this article in Science.
Green chemistry is the design of environmentally sustainable chemicals and manufacturing processes, in particular renewable raw materials and environmentally friendly solvents to replace petroleum-based products.
The field is ideal for empowering African scientists as it combines the pursuit of new science with sustainable technologies appropriate to the community.
In Ethiopia, chemists are extracting essential oils from plants used in traditional medicine and high-performance starches from locally produced raw materials such as biomass.
In the last four years, scientists at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia have established themselves internationally in the field, utilising links with Western universities and academic societies, and free access to scientific literature.
The authors write that the Ethiopian group could act as a model for green chemists — and other scientists — in other countries.