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Addressing the neglect of Africa is a priority this year for both the G8 group of most industrialised nations and the European Union. One aspect of social and economic development that international aid donors have recognised is the need to take account of the continent's science and technology capacity.

According to a report presented to the United Nations last month, African countries have on average just 18 scientists and engineers per million people, compared with 60 in South Asia, 273 in Latin America and 903 in East Asia.

This editorial in Nature argues that the agenda for how aid is used must be set by African nations themselves and that aid agencies need to realise African scientific communities are increasingly able and willing to take control of — and responsibility for — reforming the continent.

To move away from a system of aid in which donors set the agenda then complain if things go wrong, says the editorial, it is vital that African countries come up plans on how to spend the money before the cash flows in.

Link to full editorial in Nature