Young Scientists

Emmanuel Kamdem: "Companies are willing to fund research"

Who are you?

I am Emmanuel Kamdem. I am a university professor at ESSEC, University of Douala, where I have spent my whole career as a professor.

Why are you attending the YASE meeting?

I was invited to expose how we created a network of excellence among African business schools. This is a worrying issue, networking academics, especially those working in business schools. I presented the Euro-African Institute of Management, which is a network created in 2011 to bring together a number of African business schools that want to pool their efforts, their human resources, their technological resources, their scientific resources, to support business schools that want to engage in a quality development process, with the aim of obtaining accreditation. Today, for a business school to be present at the international level means getting an accreditation. Yet, our African business schools have a lot of difficulties to enter international rankings. It was therefore necessary to develop and implement a set of measures to support these business schools.

What do you think about the fact that many young African scientists do not return in ther home country after they completed their studies?

Today, we are in a context of scientific and economic globalization : there are no more borders. A young Cameroonian academic talent who is being solicited somewhere in the world, will be difficult to convince to return to Cameroon. So what we must do, together, is to create a new environment to better welcome diaspora scientists, thanks to the renewed economic growth in Africa. So the answer to this question today is not absolutely telling African scientists: "Return to Africa". You can be in Africa, or outside Africa, and contribute to the development of science and research in Africa, through all communication technologies.

Is there enough funding for research in Africa?

This is one of the major obstacles to the development of research in Africa. As we all know, public funding is not huge. That is why we will have to change the paradigm, and make much greater use of private sector funding, funding from those who create wealth. So, how can we ensure that companies and entrepreneurs can be interested in financing research on the continent? They should feel that the research that is being done in university laboratories meets their expectations. This would mean that the development and conduct of research projects on our continent today should be done in very close collaboration with socio-professional stakeholders. In the case of Cameroon, we have employers' organisations, we also have companies that I think are willing to make their modest contribution to the funding of research. But we need that, at the outset, research projects are developed on the basis of practical problems, and that the results of research carried out by scientists provide answers. Not theoretical answers, but answers that must effectively translate into the resolution of problems encountered within companies.

Do you feel a real political will for the development of research in African countries?

The statement of political will exists. In almost all States, there are statements encouraging scientists. But political will is not enough : it must be translated into practical actions.What is the share for research in the budget of our States? Are there tax incentives allowing companies to hire scientists, or interns, or who give research grants to the best students? So there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in terms of tax incentives. And the answer is to be given by the governments, because it is an economic policy issue.

Interview by Jean-Bruno Tagne

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