How we can stop Africa's scientific brain drain | Kevin Njabo | Summary and Q&A

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TED
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How we can stop Africa's scientific brain drain | Kevin Njabo

TL;DR

In this TED Talk, the speaker discusses their personal journey and efforts towards sustainable development in Africa through the creation of the Congo Basin Institute.

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Key Insights

  • 🌍 Africa's challenges include poor governance, environmental destruction, poverty, and high malaria rates, particularly affecting children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 🎓 The lack of educational opportunities in Africa drives many young Africans to seek education abroad, often leading to a "brain drain" of talented individuals leaving the continent.
  • 🤝 The development of partnerships between African and international researchers, NGOs, and private businesses can lead to collaborative solutions to African problems.
  • 🏢 The creation of permanent research institutes, such as the proposed Congo Basin Institute, can provide a one-stop shop for logistics, housing, and collaborative projects between Africans and international researchers.
  • 🔬 Supporting and nurturing local talent in Africa can lead to significant advancements in research and development, as well as the creation of new jobs.
  • 🌿 The interdisciplinary approach of the Congo Basin Institute enables the exploration of sustainable solutions to environmental issues, such as sustainably growing and harvesting African hardwoods like ebony.
  • 🌱 Incorporating local communities and farmers into the production and cultivation of hardwoods can create economic opportunities while preserving the environment.
  • 🌍 The goal of initiatives like the Congo Basin Institute is to reverse the brain drain by providing high-quality education and research opportunities within Africa, ensuring that talented Africans can stay on the continent.

Transcript

So many of us who care about sustainable development and the livelihood of local people do so for deeply personal reasons. I grew up in Cameroon, a country of enchanting beauty and rich biodiversity, but plagued by poor governance, environmental destruction, and poverty. As a child, like we see with most children in sub-Saharan Africa today, I regu... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What motivated the speaker to pursue sustainable development in Africa?

The speaker's personal experiences growing up in Cameroon, witnessing poor governance, environmental destruction, and poverty, as well as regularly suffering from malaria, motivated them to pursue sustainable development in Africa.

Q: Where did the speaker go to seek better educational opportunities?

The speaker left Cameroon at the age of 18 and moved to Nigeria to seek better educational opportunities, as there was only one university in Cameroon at the time. Nigeria offered opportunities for Cameroonians of English extraction.

Q: What challenges did the speaker face upon graduating as an ecologist in Nigeria?

The speaker faced an even bigger challenge in practicing their trade as an ecologist upon graduating in Nigeria. This led to them leaving the continent when they received a scholarship to Boston University for their PhD.

Q: Why does the speaker believe that Africa tends to solve its problems by bringing in experts from the West for short stays?

The speaker believes that Africa tends to solve its problems by bringing in experts from the West for short stays due to the perception of Africa as a continent perpetually in need of handouts and the export of the best and brightest African talent.

Q: How does the speaker and their team aim to address the brain drain and empower Africans to find their own solutions?

The speaker and their team aim to address the brain drain and empower Africans by building a permanent presence in Africa. They are developing the Congo Basin Institute as a one-stop shop for logistics, housing, and collaborative projects between Africans and international researchers.

Q: What research is being conducted at the Congo Basin Institute?

At the Congo Basin Institute, research is being conducted on topics such as the effects of climate change on insects, climate variability and change on malaria transmission, and understanding biodiversity under climate change, human health, and nutrition.

Q: What initiatives are being undertaken to sustainably grow African hardwoods?

The speaker and their team are working with local communities, students, US entrepreneurs, and scientists to find ways to sustainably grow ebony, sapele, and bubinga, which are highly prized African hardwoods. They are using tissue culture work, grafting, and incorporating these trees into local land-use systems.

Q: What are the future plans for the Congo Basin Institute?

The speaker plans to scale up the Congo Basin Institute by building a green facility with expanded laboratory space, more housing, and conference facilities. They aim to offer more opportunities to young African scholars and leverage existing research stations across sub-Saharan Africa to reach multiple African nations and attract private-sector investment.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker grew up in Cameroon and experienced the effects of poor governance, environmental destruction, and poverty, including suffering from malaria as a child.

  • The speaker wants to shift the approach to solving African problems, by nurturing and supporting local talent, rather than relying on experts from the West and exporting the best and brightest.

  • The speaker is leading a multi-initiative to develop the Congo Basin Institute, a permanent base for Africans to work in partnership with international researchers and find their own solutions to their own problems.

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