Half of academics in Africa ‘receive no research funding’

Overwhelming majority of survey respondents say lack of money has held back their career

November 20, 2018
Africa from space
Source: iStock

An overwhelming majority of African academics who responded to a survey said that a lack of funding was hampering their careers, with almost half reporting that they had not received any research income in the past three years.

The survey of about 5,700 scholars across the continent also highlights the dearth of mobility opportunities and mentoring and support for researchers in the region.

Overall, 87 per cent of respondents aged 50 years and younger and 82 per cent of those older than 50 said that a lack of research funding had negatively affected their career, while a shortage of funding for research equipment was cited as a major challenge by between 74 per cent and 82 per cent of respondents.

Almost half of respondents (45 per cent) said that they had not received any funding for research over the preceding three years. Of those who had, the majority were given less than $50,000 (£39,000), although about 5 per cent (128 respondents) indicated that they had been awarded more than $1 million.

The findings of the survey were published in the book The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa, which was co-edited by researchers Catherine Beaudry, Johann Mouton and Heidi Prozesky and published earlier this month.

Between 62 per cent and 74 per cent of respondents said that a lack of mobility opportunities had harmed their career, with just 30 per cent of respondents reporting that they had studied or worked abroad over the preceding three years.

Professor Mouton, director of the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology at Stellenbosch University, said that the aim of the book was to discover what impact international and national investments in African science since the millennium have had on the “next generation” of academics across the continent. He added that the researchers had “confirmed hypotheses that have never [before] been empirically shown”.

Rajani Naidoo, director of the International Centre for Higher Education Management at the University of Bath, said that while “it is very seductive to pour the lion’s share of resources into centres of excellence in specific universities”, to train an elite group of young scientists, any funding must be tied to “the larger responsibility of building capacity in systems of higher education”.


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Reader's comments (1)

This is not at all surprising in the developing world. It would be interesting to see the results for the UK as money has become increasingly important (and often in short supply) over the course of my career.