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Taking Equipment Seriously

Published: 2012-06-15

Addressing equipment challenges in development-related scientific research in Africa

Graham Haylor, DirectorGraham Haylor, IFS Director

Scientists, technicians and their institutions across Africa encounter many common problems associated with scarce infrastructure. To enable the continent to pull together and efficiently use its human and infrastructural resources, the African Union (AU) Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Office of Science and Technology Policy, aim to find new ways to facilitate infrastructure, promote networking and establish centres of excellence, so that through a combination of these efforts, scientific productivity and innovation may be significantly increased.
In line with this, IFS together with the African Academy of Sciences hosted a timely conference to consider the issues around Getting and Using Equipment for Scientific Research in Africa. The conference discussed access to critical scientific equipment, including procurement, servicing and maintenance. There were 87 participants from 13 countries across Africa attending the event; they contributed and heard presentations from:

  • PRISM - The IFS Procurement, Installation, Service, Maintenance and Use of Scientific Equipment Project – a 4 year pilot project funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
    Project partners from Nigeria, Madagascar and IFS presented their experiences and learning. An independent review of PRISM highlighted that the project success lies in creating and supporting an environment where all key stakeholders (university administrators, researchers, technologists and technicians, and equipment suppliers) can agree on the needs, the optimal organisation and the sustained utilization of the scientific research equipment.
  • The IFS Small Grants Programme, in its 40th year, more popular than ever, empowering early-career scientists.
    IFS highlighted how vital small grants are to early-career scientists. These grants, mostly used for equipment, are offered on a strongly competitive basis. They often allow researchers to return to their country after post graduate study to conduct valuable research and eventually to become established as research scientists.
  • BecA - The Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub, developed within the framework of Centres of Excellence for Science and Technology in Africa, hosted and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi.
    BecA highlighted how the development of high calibre centralised laboratory provision can increase access to affordable, world-class research facilities and create and strengthen human resources in biosciences and related disciplines in Africa.

In the IFS Briefing Document 1/2012 you can find more details and some captured key “learning” from the Nairobi conference.

  » African Union Commission

  » New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)

  » African Academy of Sciences

  » Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub (BecA)




  1. Marcos Edel Martinez Montero, Aug 03, 2012 at 06:04 PM

    I followed with great interest your comments related with Taking Equipment Seriously, addressing equipment challenges in development-related scientific research in Africa during the Getting and Using Equipment for Scientific Research in Africa: A Conference. I am sure that scientist from Africa are not only that suffer from the acquisition of equipment for science research on the third world. I am very happy that IFS is organizing this kind of meetings and I have testimony that IFS is very involved in the right way to resolve the different challenges on this address. I was beneficed by IFS support for my initial career on research.

  2. Ross Jansen-van Vuuren, Jul 16, 2012 at 02:42 AM

    The initiation of such a collaboration between the above organizations and the 'Getting and Using Equipment for Scientific Research in Africa' will go a long way in advancing scientific research in Africa, in time. Congratulations and best wishes to all involved! Is there place within the IFS framework for the establishment of a system for (1) laboratory inspection and accreditation within LDC science institutions, and (2) implementing laboratory training, equipment maintenance, and occupational health and safety programs? If incentives were made available to African-based scientists in these respects, this would go a long way in motivating domestic improvement. Any feeedback on these ideas?

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