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Research Information:FOCUS ON AFRICA

Global challenges, local knowledge

From the environment to gender studies, there is plenty of research taking place across Africa into issues that impact local people. Siân Harris looks at some of the challenges and opportunities for the continent’s researchers


n recent months, environmental scientists and policymakers in Kenya have been sharing expertise on climate change in light of the recent Kenya Climate Change Bill. These discussions, organised by the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACT) with funding from the INASP-led VakaYiko programme, highlight how local research can affect local policy in Africa.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that ‘climate change poses challenges for the least-developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change.’ As the international responses to climate change continues to be debated in global summits, the Kenyan roundtables, and work in the country to enable policymakers to shadow researchers, reveal a search for evidence to

Female researchers

Researchers face many challenges but in some places these challenges can be more pronounced for female researchers because of additional cultural and other pressures. Four researchers who joined INASP staff at the recent Gender Summit Africa meeting in South Africa share their stories

Gloria Sakwari researches occupational health and occupational hygiene in Tanzania. Her research looks at occupational respiratory disease and its disease burden and occupational exposure to aerosols such as organic and inorganic dust.

‘At the moment many occupational @researchinfo

exposures and their effects have not been studied or, if studied, have not been published. We do not have complete data for most occupational related diseases and injuries. We have no compiled data on respiratory diseases from occupational exposure. I believe that with studies from my area, we can improve on

inform a country’s response. Such evidence comes from local scientists, as well as those elsewhere in the world. Searches in the African Journals Online (AJOL) platform – a collection of over 500 African journals on diverse topics – reveal hundreds of articles on climate science and the environment published by African scientists in the past year alone. It’s not just climate change. Across the continent there is plenty of research affecting local people: into issues such as agriculture, AIDS, youth unemployment and Ebola. There is also a move, supported by INASP and others, to connect research with local policymakers.

Challenges of growth

In the past 10 to 15 years, thanks in part to a shift in policy from the World Bank, African higher education and research have begun to attract greater investment, from outside and within countries. This has led to a growth in research, research training, research publications

the real picture of the burden of occupation diseases and bring in measures to control or reduce the impact.

‘There are challenges as very few people are involved in this research. There are also few registered organisations or companies so we get problems when conducting research in these areas. Entry to the factory may be denied or only given after a long time of negotiations. ‘Another challenge is that research of this nature involves laboratory work. We do not have occupational laboratories in Tanzania yet and transporting samples to other countries has proven to be very expensive. This waters down the quality of research, especially in exposure studies.’

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 Research Information 17


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