Scientists' Crucial Role in Poverty Reduction in South Africa
The President of the Academy of Science in South Africa, Daya Reddy, claims that scientists play a key role in global poverty reduction. The problem is that the number of scientists in Africa is significantly less than anywhere else in the world. In other parts of the world, for every 1 million people, there are 1,000 scientists. In Africa, this number is 80. The second problem is what Reddy calls “the brain drain,” where one-third of Africa’s scientists leave the continent to practice their research.

Because of this, Africa’s success in poverty reduction is significantly lower than elsewhere. While worldwide poverty has been reduced by 50 percent, in Africa it has only been reduced by 8 percent.

Scientists hold the key to unlocking great mysteries, which is why Reddy teamed up with the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the South African Research and Innovation Management Association at the Research and Innovation for Global Challenge conference in May to encourage students to pursue their interests in science. In his speech, he highlights the importance of interdisciplinary studies, encouraging a “healthy collaboration”.

Reddy encourages scientists to use their knowledge of research and apply it to the world at large. “Complex problems require broad transdisciplinary approaches for their solution,” said Reddy, explaining later that this is the business of bringing together scientists with the movers and shakers of the world—the decision-makers and policy-creators, the educators and the innovators.

Scientific advancements can help in many ways, from improving the daily lives of individuals to large-scale changes. From medicine to sanitation, to agriculture and transportation, science is a unifying factor with the potential to make big changes in the world.

Great advancements have already been made, thanks to interdisciplinary work. Since the Millennium Development Goals established in 2000, now 90 percent of children globally are going to primary school, more girls are getting an education than ever before, and the odds of a child dying before the age of 5 has been cut in half. Worldwide, poverty has improved since the goals were established.

Reddy spoke at a conference in May to inspire students to pursue science. He encouraged the next generation to collaborate and create an interdisciplinary culture in order to end global poverty.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: African Business Review, United Nations Development Programme University World News
Photo: Flickr

The new USAID lab aims to eradicate poverty by 2030 through the power of science and innovation. Inspired by other humble technologies such as the “cow manure fridge,” the agency plans to invest 1 billion dollars a year into its New Global Development laboratory. The idea is for this project to be a collaborative effort between scientists, corporations, universities and non-governmental organizations.

The lab is being designed in the image of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the arm of the Defense Department known for creating new technologies such as the Internet. But in this case the goal is to tackle issues related to poverty.

So far this initiative counts with the collaboration of 30 founding corporate members. These “cornerstone partners,” announced this month, include Microsoft, Intel, Cisco Systems, DuPont, Walmart, Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian Institution, Duke, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several other universities, as well as the government of Sweden.

While these partners under normal circumstances would not come together, their collaborative effort in this case represents 30 billion dollars put towards the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

According to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, the goal of this “global community of inventors, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders in science and technology” is to “invent, test and scale the most promising and cost-effective solutions to end extreme poverty.” Initially the efforts of the laboratory will be concentrated on six areas: water, health, food security and nutrition, energy, education and climate change.

While many have praised this way of tackling world poverty, some anti-poverty campaigners see the lab as further evidence of the commercialization of development. Organizations such as the Oakland Institute and the World Development Movement doubt that this kind of partnership will bring the desired results to deal with the roots of world poverty.

However, the USAID argues that this approach has a better chance of providing solutions since it does not focus on answering to a specific problem. They call it a “creation lab” where partners come with new ideas to be discussed and tested. This makes for endless possibilities when it comes to fighting the roots of extreme poverty. “The lab has ambitions of disruptive technologies and game-changing solutions really helping improve the lives of 200 million people in five years.”

The aim is to produce things like the Pratt Pouch, a two-cent package of antiretroviral drugs given to children at birth to prevent the transition of HIV/AIDS, or bringing electricity to rural areas without building extensive electrical grids.

USAID hopes that the lab one day will bring real change in the world when it comes to poverty reduction. However, there is no shortage of skepticism as many view the role of corporations in fighting the world’s plight as something preposterous or even comical.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: CNET, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian