Global Research Report Africa

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APRIL 2010


Dr. Jonathan Adams is Director, Research Evaluation.
He was a founding Director of Evidence Ltd, the UK specialist on research performance analysis and interpretation. Christopher King is Editor of Science Watch (, a newsletter and web resource tracking trends and performance in basic research. Dr Daniel Hook is Managing Director of Symplectic Limited, the UK-based research management information company, and holds visiting academic positions at Imperial College London and Washington University in St Louis.

This report has been published by
Evidence, a Thomson Reuters business
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Copyright © 2010 Thomson Reuters
ISBN: 1-904431-25-9



APRIL 2010

This report is part of a series launched by
Thomson Reuters to inform policymakers and
others about the landscape and dynamics of the
global research base.

regressing on objectives to achieve universal
primary education by 2015. Internet penetration
is good only in North Africa, constraining
communication and access to knowledge.i

The global research landscape is changing. Our
previous reports have described this as ‘the new
geography of science’, borrowing from UK thinktank Demos which published a prescient analysis in 2005 pointing out the growth of research
alongside emergent economies.

Yet the continent is also home to a rich history of
higher education and knowledge creation. The
University of Al-Karaouine, at Fez in Morocco, was
founded in CE 859 as a madrasa and is identified
by many as the oldest degree-awarding institution
in the world.ii It was followed in 970 by Al-Azhar
University in Egypt. While it was some centuries
before the curriculum expanded from religious
instruction into the sciences this makes a very
early marker for learning. Today, the Association of
African Universities lists 225 member institutions
in 44 countries and, as Thomson Reuters data
demonstrate, African research has a network of
ties to the international community.

Our previous reports have separately examined
the scientific enterprise in the so-called ‘BRIC’
bloc of nations, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India,
and China. Three of these countries have rapidly
emerged into prominence among the world’s
economies, at a rate historically unparalleled and
with pervasive implications for the traditional
science leaders on the trans-Atlantic axis.
Another report assessed Australia and New
Zealand, a stable node linked to both old and
new geographies.
But there are other sides to the world picture.
One of these, inevitably, is the countries that
have certainly been involved in research
networks but seem to have benefitted less
from the new dynamics. They have had less
policy attention, perhaps because they demand
reflective consideration rather than provoking
easy headlines. The present report therefore
undertakes the daunting task of describing —
albeit only at a preliminary level — an entire
continent: Africa.
More than 50 nations, hundreds of languages,
and a welter of ethnic and cultural diversity. A
continent possessed of abundant natural resources
but also perennially wracked by a now-familiar
litany of post-colonial woes: poverty, want, political
instability and corruption, disease, and armed
conflicts frequently driven by ethnic and tribal
divisions but supplied by more mature economies.
OECD’s recent African Economic Outlook sets out in
stark detail the challenge, and the extent to which
current global economic problems may make this
worse and further compromise the commitment
made in 2005 at Gleneagles, to double official
development assistance to Africa by 2010. More
than half the African nations...
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