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African scientists and educators will announce plans this week (28–29 January) to transform sub-Saharan education and research by creating the African Institute of Science and Technology (AIST), a network of four regional science institutions with world-class facilities.

The AIST planners hope to build one institute each in west, central, east and southern Africa, with the first to open in Tanzania in 2007 if all goes to plan. Funding must first be found, however, as the proposed network could cost US$5 billion.

The AIST's goal is to train 5,000 scientists and engineers each year. With only 83 scientists and engineers per million people and research spending standing at just 0.47 per cent of Africa's gross domestic product, the need for such a plan is clear.

The project has gained prominence with Nelson Mandela's agreement to chair its first board of directors. The institute's organisers admit there are challenges, however, such as finding good local jobs for graduates to ensure that those trained do not join the brain drain out of the Africa.

Link to full news story in Science

Reference Science 307, 499 (2005)