Alvaro-SobrinhoAfrica is an ever-changing continent, the future of its nations held in a constant state of flux. This is the case across many areas of African life: politics, religion, the economy. A prime example of this constant change can be seen in the world of African science.

Recently, there has been talk about the concept of scientific independence for Africa. This is a complex subject but, stripped to its barest essentials, it means that the countries of Africa will be able to conduct scientific research and development without the interference of foreign organisations and governments - in short, that Africa will be able to foes its scientific resources into solving the problems faced by the continent itself, rather than working at the behest of interests abroad.

The Planet Earth Institute is one of the organisations that is leading the cause for scientific independence in Africa. This group has pointed out that Africa currently has a disproportionately low number of scientists: the continent holds 14% of the world's population, but just 1% of the global scientific community. As groups such as the PEI work to ensure that their voices are heard, however, this could well change.

It’s chairman Alvaro Sobrinho had this to say when he spoke at the African Union Headquarters during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly:

“Yet there is great reason for optimism. I am hugely encouraged by the recent change in mood on issues of science, technology and innovation on my continent. Across Africa and beyond through the international system, there has been a shift in perception toward the role of science in development, with leaders from Mozambique to Nigeria and Kenya championing the cause. In my own home, Angola, we now have an ambitious science and technology strategy announced last year and our work at the Planet Earth Institute is help making Angola a leading science hub in the region.”

This area still faces a range of hurdles, of course. Africa currently lacks many resources that are needed to set up a robust scientific community; as well as this, there are many ongoing political and economic struggles across the continent that will inevitably have a knock-on effect when it comes to Africa's scientific research. Despite these issues, many commentators are optimistic about the future of African scientific research once true independence is achieved.

So, what does scientific independence mean for Africa? It means a number of things. It means that the continent can play a bigger role on the world stage. It means that some of the problems faced in the countries of Africa can be solved with scientific thinking. In short, in means that a range of vital new voices will be heard across the international scientific community - voices that will benefit not merely a single continent, but in the long run, the entire world.

Watch an introductory Planet Earth Institute video here, and view the full Alvaro Sobrinho presentation here.