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The African Academy of Sciences and Royal Society announce further recipients of 2019 FLAIR scheme

The African Academy of Sciences and Royal Society announce further recipients of 2019 FLAIR scheme

The African Academy of Sciences and Royal Society announce further recipients of 2019 FLAIR scheme 
 

  • Up to 30 early career African scientists get £300,000 (US$391,500) each over 2 years 
  • Scheme supports African citizens establishing an independent research career on the continent
  • African researchers using their expertise to address the global challenges relevant to their countries
  • Researchers are drawn from countries including Cameroon, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe

 
The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and Royal Society have announced a further eight recipients of the FLAIR fellowship scheme. FLAIR (Future Leaders – African Independent Research) is a programme of The AAS and Royal Society, with support from the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). It is designed to help talented early-career researchers, whose science is focused on the needs of the continent, establish independent careers in African institutions and ultimately, their own research groups.

The FLAIR Fellows, their nationalities and institutions are:

Ezekiel Mugendi Njeru, Kenyan, Kenyatta University (Kenya)
For smallholder farmers in the semi-arid regions of Kenya who are unable to afford vital inorganic fertilisers for their crops, there is an alternative: the microorganisms that increase nutrient uptake in crops. Njeru will map biodiversity patterns of these microorganisms to optimise their introduction to crops to improve yield and drought tolerance.

Elizabeth Ndunda, Kenyan, Machakos University (Kenya)
For developing countries, environmental pollution is an emerging challenge. One such pollutant type is the probable human carcinogens PCBs, which accumulate in animals. Ndunda is developing an accurate, readily deployable sensor for these widespread environmental pollutants.

Wilfred Odadi, Kenyan, Egerton University (Kenya)
Managing the intensity of livestock grazing is vital for both conservation and livestock welfare, so when pastoralists give their livestock seasonal access to private ranches (otherwise un-grazed land and refuges for wildlife) the effects are substantial but unmonitored. Odadi proposes to understand this land-sharing scheme—that between pastoralists and private ranchers—so that optimal grazing conditions might be arrived at to ensure peaceful co-existence between wildlife, livestock, and humans.

Zebib Yenus Nuru, Ethiopian, University of South Africa (South Africa)
In the transition towards renewable energy, specifically solar power, Africa and southern Africa have plenty to give, with annual average solar irradiance double that of the UK. One downside to this energy technology is the point at which solar energy is converted to either heat or electricity, an issue located squarely at the solar absorber surface. Nuru aims to develop and optimise a range of solar absorbing surfaces that overcome this energetic shortfall.

Balla D. Ngom, Senegalese, Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (Senegal)
Ngom is working on renewable technology—batteries and supercapacitors—that will enable the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy generated by the wind and sun.

Raphael Tshimanga, Congolese, Universite de Kinshasa (The Democratic Republic of Congo)
The catchments of the Congo are of great importance, providing hydro-power, water supply, fisheries, and more, and yet their extent and interconnectedness remain undescribed. Tshimanga is developing a catchment classification system to enable healthy and sustainable resource planning for the Congo Basin.

Emmanuel Balogun, Nigerian, Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria)
Two major diseases have been partly attributed to poverty and underdevelopment in Africa: Sleeping sickness and nagana, affecting humans and livestock respectively. Balogun is working on identifying a compound to neutralise the sleeping sickness parasite.

Rufus Akinyemi, Nigerian, University of Ibadan (Nigeria) 
Akinyemi is looking into the genetic basis for memory loss after stroke. People of African descent are particularly prone to worse stroke outcomes.

Professor Felix Dapare Dakora, President of the African Academy of Sciences, says, “The AAS welcomes the exceptional FLAIR grantees to its postdoctoral family. We recognise that well-planned postdoctoral programmes are critical in promoting scientific and research excellence and leadership in Africa and so want to be catalytic in inspiring African institutions to critically think about the role of and defining postdoctoral programmes that suit their needs and purpose and can be instrumental in driving socio-economic development on the continent.”

Dr Judy Omumbo, Programme Manager, Affiliates and Postdoctoral Programmes, says, “We look forward to welcoming the FLAIR grantees to the community of AAS postdoctoral fellows. FLAIR  grantees will have access to AAS’ wider programme of support to develop them as independent research leaders including leadership, entrepreneurship and media,science communication and public engagement training, a mentorship scheme with internationally recognized mentors, proposal writing workshops, Open Access Publishing (no fees), via AAS Open Research and networking opportunities both regionally and with the UK and to develop regional and international collaborations.”

Professor Richard Catlow, Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, says, “I’d like to offer the Royal Society’s warmest congratulations to our first intake of FLAIR fellows. These scientists represent the next generation of leading African scientists, and we are incredibly proud to be part of a programme that is investing in them at such a crucial point in their careers. 

“Fostering science and innovation for social benefit and prosperity is key to the wellbeing of any society, and investing in Africa’s scientific talent holds the greatest potential to tackle global challenges and improve quality of life.”

The next round of the FLAIR scheme is now open, closing on 15 May 2019. This year the academies want to encourage more applications from under-represented countries, particularly Francophone and Lusophone countries.

The 2019 FLAIR cohort were selected from a competitive pool of more than 700 applicants. Their research is diverse, ranging from providing renewable energy solutions and addressing climate change, to tackling food security and targeting health and environmental problems that are most acute for people living in African countries.
 
Thanks to the FLAIR scheme, some of the scientists are returning to the continent from countries such as the UK and USA to continue their careers in African institutions. This is an important part of the programme – attracting scientists back from the high income countries where they have completed their postdoctoral training so that they can play a part in building the research infrastructure at home. To keep improving its scientific output, Africa needs to pay urgent attention to growing and retaining its scientific talent and FLAIR is one of a number of initiatives through which The AAS is tackling this issue.
 
FLAIR continues the Royal Society’s support of science in Africa. Its programmes are synonymous with excellence in science and its grants programmes play an important role in nurturing the next generation of researchers who are the scientific leaders of tomorrow.

---ENDS---

For media enquiries please contact: 
 
Nairobi, Kenya
Deborah-Fay Ndlovu, The African Academy of Sciences
d.ndlovu@aasciences.ac.ke; +254 727 660 760; +254 20 806 0674

London, UK
Bronwyn Friedlander, Royal Society
Bronwyn.Friedlander@royalsociety.org; +44 207 451 2514; +44 7939 320 759

Notes to editors:

The FLAIR 2019 recipients who were previously announced at an event in Naivasha on Thursday 4 April are:
•    Anita Etale, Rwandan, University of Witwatersrand (South Africa)
•    Gift Mehlana, Zimbabwean, Midlands State University (Zimbabwe)
•    Christopher Trisos, South African, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
•    Dyllon Randall, South African, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
•    Oluwaseyi Shorinola, Nigerian, International Livestock Research Institute (Kenya) 
•    Lenine Liebenberg, South African, Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (South Africa)
•    Dorit Hockman, South African, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
•    Joseph Raimondo, South African, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
•    Kanyiva Muindi, Kenyan, African Population and Health Research Centre (Kenya)
•    Margreth Tadie, Zimbabwean, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
•    Marique Aucamp, South African, University of the Western Cape (South Africa)
•    Banothile Makhubela, South African, University of Johannesburg (South Africa)
•    Cecil King’ondu, Kenyan, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (Botswana)
•    Debra Rossouw, South African, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
•    Francis Wamonje, Kenyan, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Kenya)
•    Justin Komguep Nono, Cameroonian, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
•    Leopold Tientcheu Djomkam, Cameroonian, MRC Unit at LSHTM (The Gambia)
•    Robert Skelton, South African, South African Environmental Observation Network (South Africa)
•    Sarah Fawcett, South African, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
•    Veron Ramsuran, South African, University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)
•    Wade Petersen, South African, University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Why are schemes like FLAIR needed?
•    Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population and 25% of the global burden of disease, but it produces just 2% of the world’s research output (UNESCO Science Report 2015).
•    Only 1% of global investment in R&D is spent in Africa.
•    Africa currently has 198 researchers per million people, compared with 428 in Chile and over 4,000 in the UK and US (http://uis.unesco.org/). To achieve just the world average for the number of researchers per capita, the continent needs another million new PhDs (African Academy of Sciences).
•     Africa loses thousands of professionals every year to developed countries (The Cultures of Economic Migration: International Perspectives).
•    Over the last decade, Africa has experienced an increase in the number of universities and in science enrolment rates, but the ratio of lecturers to students in Africa’s universities is as high as 1:47. As a result, academics are overwhelmed with teaching loads, leaving little to no time and resources for research (The Effects of Massification on Higher Education in Africa).
•    Additionally, training of the faculty also falls short of international standards, with only about 33% of faculty in Kenyan institution holding PhDs (The Commission for University Education), and only 15 African universities on global university rankings. As a result, institutions of higher learning are not preparing graduates to compete in the competitive academic and industrial job markets globally.
•    More than half of the 10,350 lecturers have no PhDs
 
•    As well as financial support, FLAIR provides an opportunity for these future leading scientists to tap into the network of scientific excellence that both the Academies’ represent, to take advantage of training and mentoring opportunities, as well as building lasting connections and international collaborations with peers across Africa.

About The African Academy of Sciences 
The AAS is a Pan-African organisation whose headquarters are in Kenya. The Academy has a tripartite mandate of pursuing excellence by recognising scholars and achievers; providing advisory and think-tank functions for shaping the continent’s strategies and policies; and implementing key science, technology and innovation programmes that impact on developmental challenges through the agenda setting and funding platform - the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA). Facebook.com/AASciences; Twitter @AASciences and www.aasciences.ac.ke

FLAIR is one of six postdoctoral programmes being implemented at The African Academy of Sciences. The African Academy of Sciences is committed to developing a future generation of African scientists through quality training, leadership and mentorship to lead Africa’s science-led transformation. 
 
About the Royal Society
The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth. It is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.
 
The Society’s flagship fellowship programmes support outstanding researchers in the UK and internationally from the early stages of their science careers. Its GCRF funded programmes draw on this approach to create a high quality research base by supporting talented researchers who are contributing to research excellence in global challenge areas relevant to development. Its programmes also promote research collaborations between low and middle income countries and UK researchers.
 
Follow the Royal Society on Twitter (@royalsociety) or on Facebook (facebook.com/theroyalsociety).
 
About the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) 
The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries. It focuses on funding challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research; strengthening capability for research, innovation and knowledge exchange; and providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research or on-the-ground need. It is a £1.5 billion fund which forms part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through nine delivery partners including UK Research and Innovation (comprising the research councils, Research England and Innovate UK), the UK Academies, the UK Space Agency and other funding bodies.