Young Scientists

Arthur Zang: "African scientists should work more on African issues"

Who are you?

I am Arthur Zang. I am an engineer and researcher from Cameroon. I am also an entrepreneur. I am here in France to receive a prize from the Pierre Fabre Foundation, the ODES prize (the Observatory of e-health in Africa) which lists the best projects in Africa which have a real impact on people's lives. With my company Himore Medical, we set up a health program in Cameroon called Africa Cardiac Care, which allows patients to subscribe for up to 28,000 CFA francs in order to benefit from an unlimited number of heart, blood pressure and blood sugar tests in all the health centres where this program is implemented. I also took the opportunity to participate in conferences to which I had been invited, such as the YASE conference, that addresses the issues of research in Africa.

What are these issues?

There are many challenges about research in Africa. The first is training. African scientists must be increasingly well trained. So that they can carry out research that really addresses African issues, in order to solve the problems that we face in Africa. These scientists should also be able to have much more expertise in cutting-edge fields. Research topics that are studied in Africa a too often too light. This is linked to the problem of funding, which is the second most important issue about training in Africa. Because very often, research topics are not chosen by scientists in Africa, but imposed by financial institutions. Who already decide on topics before allocating funding. It really causes a lot of problems. Of course, there is also the issue of collaboration and standardization, which requires African scientists to raise their level in order to be able to carry out research that is at the same level of competence as others, so that this research can be exported to other countries.

How could young African scientists be induced to return to Africa?

Young African scientists stay in Europe after they got their research degree because of several factors. The first is that there are many more resources allocated to research in Europe than in Africa. This means that a scientist who completes his or her cycle will be significantly better paid than an African researcher. There is also the working environment, which means that there will be many more resources, already intellectual resources. There will be much more specialists nearby who will be able to help, either to complete a subject or to find funding. And also there is this problem related to intellectual evolution. There are still many delays in Africa in terms of research. The time you spend in the West to complete your PhD will not be the same in Africa, so your salary will not be the same. The second thing is that there is a fear due to the security problem that we also have in Africa. Not being sure that you can fit in, because in order to be recruited as a researcher or teacher in Africa, with a degree you have obtained outside, is not an easy thing. It often takes time. And also everything related to the research environment. I believe that the working environment for scientists in Africa should be improved. This is of course about the scientists’ remuneration. There should be many more scholarships, research should be funded and the academic environment should be more flexible so that scientists can evolve in proportion to their knowledge and publications, to their real skills in the field of research.

Interview by Jean-Bruno Tagne


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