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  • Africa 'must invest in a culture of science'

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[NAIROBI] Africa must develop a "culture of science" if it is to solve many of the challenges it faces and meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, a leading international scientist has said.

Hans Herren, the outgoing director of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, Kenya, added that African countries must address their lack of investment in science if they are to develop.

In an interview with SciDev.Net, Herren said that Africa lacks a scientific culture because, although a growing number of Africans have practical research experience, few national policymakers do.

Herren believes that African governments have not given enough recognition to the value of science in guiding and supporting sustainable development.

"If you look around at national budgets, the amount spent on education from primary to tertiary institutions is far too small," he said.

Investing in education, scientific research and technological advances would help all sectors of the economy in African countries, he added.

Herren said there are various projects that governments could invest in. But they need to identify long-term research priorities and adopt policies that will mean that in a decade's time the continent has a "critical mass" of scientists and an infrastructure able to make a significant contribution to development.

He added that scientists in African universities and research institutions need to move away from simply teaching about other people's research, and instead conduct and teach about their own studies.

"Africa needs more science wherever it comes from, but people have to do research and move away from just teaching about other people's work."

This, he explained, would help a scientific culture develop — it cannot simply be adopted.

Herren left ICIPE in April 2005, after ten years there, for Arlington, United States, where he will head the Millennium Institute.

Christian Borgemeister, formerly a professor at Hannover University, Germany, replaced him as director-general of ICIPE on 2 June.

Herren is also president of the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences, and of BioVision, a private foundation he created to promote sustainable science-led development projects in Kenya and Ethiopia.

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