African scientists win grants to create R&D networks

Scientists win grants for research
Copyright: Sarah Rich/RISE

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  • Five African scientists get US$25,000 each to help create research groups
  • They will focus on disciplines such as engineering, bioinformatics and medicine
  • The scientists aim to advance scientific knowledge in Africa

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[NAIROBI] Five African scientists who completed their doctorates through the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) scholarships have each won US$25,000 to create, expand and improve university-based research groups.
The winners of the RISE Competitive Fund were announced during a meeting in Kenya last month (19-22 April) to celebrate the accomplishments of RISE and mark its transition to a new phase as a fully Africa-owned initiative.
The five scientists and their nationalities are Adenike Olaseinde, Nigeria; Benjamin Kumwenda, Malawi; Jane Tanner, South Africa; Majuto Manyilizu, Tanzania and Jane Namukobe, Uganda.

“This award is very important as it will enable us to do quality research and train students.”

Adenike Olaseinde, Federal University of Technology, Akure


RISE is a project of the Science Initiative Group (SIG), an organisation dedicated to fostering science in developing countries, and based at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, in the United States.
Sarah Rich, a program associate at SIG, tells SciDev.Net that the grants are aimed at enabling RISE scholars in African universities to develop sustainable research groups with the capacity to pursue collaborative projects with unique and impactful contribution to advance scientific and engineering knowledge.
The winners plan to generate research projects, raise funds and strategise to move beyond the one-year phase supported by RISE fund. RISE is funded by the US-based Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Olaseinde, a faculty member at the Federal University of Technology, Akure in Nigeria, says she has established a materials and electrical research engineering group in Africa. Members of her group are from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
“We will study metals and non-metals like alloy to develop data and materials for applications in various settings in Africa,” she tells SciDev.Net.  “This award is very important as it will enable us to do quality research and train students. RISE has opened new hopes for me and I can’t imagine managing my PhD if it were not for it.”
Olaseinde explains that her research group will develop materials from Africa for Africa such as those for use in construction and energy sectors, research that makes impacts on people’s lives.
“Science is very key in African development and Africa-oriented science … needs to be done for better economies and lifestyles,” she says.
According to Kumwenda, a lecturer at the University of Malawi College of Medicine, he will use the grant to develop bioinformatics groups in Malawi for application of computational technology to solve biological or medical problems.
They will also train graduate students in bioinformatics using the fund to support other projects including in multi-drug resistance in humans.

Manyilizu, a lecturer at Tanzania-based University of Dodoma, College of Informatics and Virtual Education, will develop computation and modelling research group that will be useful in data simulation studies.
For Namukobe, a lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda, the fund will assist in setting up research group and capacity building in natural products. They will look at traditional medicines for infectious diseases such as malaria.
“We want to validate the use of traditional plants by looking at their efficacy in Uganda, isolate their active compounds that can lead to development of new drugs,” she tells SciDev.Net. “In Uganda there are many herbal formulations that are not scientifically tested and can’t be registered by the National Drug Authority due to lack of scientific validation.”

Tanner, a researcher at Rhodes University, South Africa, says she aims at starting a new group for ground and surface water research in Africa.
“I want to change the landscape from that of separation and working in silos to togetherness to scale up projects focused on specific key sciences and interactions between the two,” Tanner adds.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.