Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Third World scientists meet

Poku Adaa

A Symposium on 'Chemistry and Developing Countries' focussing attention on collaboration in Research, Education and Training in the field of Chemistry was held at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K. from 10th-12th September. Our Correspondent, POKU ADAA provides a summary of proceedings of the symposium
The Symposium was organised by the U.K.-based Royal Society of Chemistry in conjunction with the British Council and the British Association for the Advancement of Science to coincide with the Annual Meeting of B.A.A.S. and to mark the 50th anniversary of the British Council.

The Symposium covered two broad but distinct areas, i.e., the Chemistry, technology, and natural resources, and Education and Training with particular emphasis on the needs of developing countries. Over 25 developing countries including 12 from Africa were represented among the nearly 200 participants which saw 19 plenary Papers given by some eminent scholars from the Third World.

The fascinating aspect of the programme was the audio visual section where the Papers were presented in the form of beautifully illustrated posters and which featured nearly 30 authors from developing countries. There were representatives from several international organisations including UNESCO, the ICOSD (International Organisation for Chemical Sciences), the IUPAC (the International union of Pure & Applied Chemistry) and the IFS (International Foundation of Science).

There were very interesting speeches and lively discussions and save for a few papers, the language was so non-technical, that any layman could have participated and enjoyed it to the full. The following paragraphs deal with a few selected Papers:

Professor MUMUNI DAKUBU of Ghana's premier University at Legon spoke on: "Chemical Collaboration, Catalyst for Development" in which he stressed the need for collaboration between Chemical Scientists of the developed world and of the developing world and the only way by which development of the Third World could in be accelerated.

According to Professor Dakubu, "We Chemists in the developing World need a catalyst to speed up our understanding of our natural environment and the harnessing of it with the aid of technology to develop The catalyst, I call Collaboration..." He cited several areas where he felt there could be meaningful collaboration with scientists from other parts of the world to solidify a basis for useful academic research.

Professor ERNEST WRIGHT of Sierra Leone's Fourah Bay College, Freetown dwelt on the means and purpose of institutional collaboration in chemical research in developing countries. According to Professor Wright, "In most developing countries chemical research and development face many seemingly insurmountable problems.

These include lack of sufficient human resources, an absence of definitive research priorities at the national level, inadequate funding, poor or indifferent research facilities, undependable communication facilities and inadequate foreign exchange facilities to order and import materials and equipment not available locally."

In order to maintain and sustain a reasonable level of research development activities, Professor Wright called for "the setting up of viable regional and institutional networks, the holding of Joint Workshops, development of International Institutes of Research Development where funding, high level manpower research facilities can be organised.' He called again for the creation and provision of Training Fellowships and Visiting Scientists Programmes and the establishment of a mobile team of Service Engineers and Technicians.

In a Plenary speech, Professor S. A. KETTLE of the University of East Anglia at Norwich reviewed ways in which institutions in developing countries collaborate with each other and discussed several factors which he noted influence research collaboration in general.

Professor Kettle noted that there exists differences in the nature and objectives of research work between developed and developing countries in that priorities and environments are different. He observed that financial support or funding for each particular group often dictates the depth of the research work. He exhorted all international organisations like IOCD, SARC, TUPAC, etc., to continue funding joint collaborative work between developing and developed countries.

The discussion on: "An African traditional beer" was given by Dr J. M. CHITSIKA of the Chibuku Breweries Ltd, Harare, Zimbabwe. He discussed the brewing of what he called 'Traditional Beer', the problems caused by quality of local raw materials and control of the alcoholic and nutritional value of the beer. Dr Chitsika talked about the traditional beer being 'opaque' more than the conventional product since it is consumed in its fermented state.

This traditional beer, which according to Dr Chitsika "has been accorded an indivisible role in African life and cultural activities" contains 3-4 per centum of alcohol and lot of solid matter which imparts the sour but appetising taste and hold the nutritional components of the beer. "Unfortunately," said the eminent brewer, "the traditional beer has a short life time not exceeding five days."

Dr LENNART PAGE of the Inter- national Foundation of Science, Stockholm, outlined an existing model for financing scientists and for promoting the advancement of science in developing countries. Professor Page added that: "The IFS gives support usually to the tune of US$ 10,000 for the purchase of equipment, supplies and literature to researchers who have ideas to explore." He said, "the communication and sharing of scientific information between those who are grant-aided by the ISF and other scientists all over the world are encouraged and promoted by regional meetings and visits to project sites."

Professor SALAH MORSI of the University of Alexandria, Egypt discussed the relevance of postgraduate research programmes to national development. According to Professor Morsi, "University education pro- grammes in developing countries have been much influenced by developments in the scientific arena of developed countries with the result that scientists from developing countries get trained in the forefronts of Science & Technology relevant to the develop- ment of industrialised countries."

"This sort of training," according to Professor Morsi, "either led to brain drain away from the parent home countries or to the export of idealistic scientific approaches to problems of developing countries." There is need therefore, in developing countries, for multidisciplinary re-orientation programmes which are relevant to national needs and to avoid frustration among many a young scientist.


In his plenary speech on the field of biological chemistry, Dr S. A. MATLIN of the City University, London, discussed the development of injectable contraceptives for women and oral contraceptives for men. Dr Matlin recalled the role the World Health Organisation (WHO) in co- ordinating a multi-national pharmaceutical development programme that has resulted in the formulation of a safe and potent injectable contraceptive agent for women.

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities has spent nearly US$7.5 million to set up a special laboratory to produce monthly injectable contraceptives which are clinically being tried in Shanghai, China. He went on further to announce the development of Gossypol, an oral contraceptive for men which can be extracted from the Cotton plant. According to Dr Matlin, a multi-national synthesis programme for Gossypol has been initiated by WHO through extensive collaboration with Third World scientists.


The Symposium concluded by formulating suggestions for action in areas of increasing personal contacts, training of young scientists, specialist training, provision of equipment and spare parts, twinning of laboratories, formation of regional associations, provision of literature, training of technicians and the tertiary and pre- university education.

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