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Find out here 'Who's who' of Science Organisations and Institutes  in Africa 


LINK The Third World Academy of Sciences. Grants and funding support.

LINK The World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organisation ( WAITRO) is an independent, not-for-profit global network of industrial research and technology organizations.

LINK National advisory council on innovation

LINK Drought Research Network For Southern Africa (DRENSA)

LINK SeaweedAfrica: an Internet database for the sustainable use of seaweed biodiversity in Africa

LINK National Institute for Communicable Diseases: monitoring communicable diseases in Southern Africa.

LINK International Foundation for Science.

LINK Vega Science Trust - putting Science TV on the Internet

LINK Showcase: The Knysna Basin Project - a national treasure to be protected and sustained.

LINK Showcase: South African Frog Atlas Project - frogs under extreme environmental pressure

LINK Showcase: Mental Health Information Centre

LINK Showcase: Chimfunshi Wildlife Organisation

LINK Tunnelling in Southern Africa

LINK Showcase: Sasol

LINK Showcase: Hans Merensky Foundation

LINK Showcase: SABS design institute

LINK Showcase: Schoolnet South Africa and ThinkQuest

LINK Showcase: The National Accelerator Centre.

LINK showcase: Living with Elephants Foundation: an organisation dedicated to improving human-elephant relations in Botswana.

LINK Showcase: Committee for Science and Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED)

LINK Showcase: Sasol Scifest: The National Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology, South Africa

LINK Showcase: The National Research Foundation, South Africa

LINK International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria


Committee for Science and Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED) 

Dorsamy Pillay1 and Veena Ravichandran2
1COSTED Regional Secretariat (Southern and East Africa), Department of Microbiology, University of Durban-Westville, P.Bag X54001, Durban, 4000, South Africa; and 2COSTED Central Secretariat, Chennai, India

COSTED was set up in 1966 with the specific responsibility of linking science and technology to sustainable development in Southern Africa. This was in recognition of the important role of science and technology in the development process as well as the imperative to bring under-privileged nations to the main stream of international science, particularly those addressing global issues such as climate change, environmental issues, etc.

Against the backdrop of global trends the executive committee has identified the following  mission for COSTED.

· To strengthen, organise and integrate the scientific communities of developing regions of the world;
· To stimulate and facilitate the participation of scientists and scientific institutions of the developing countries in the activities of international science and technology;
· To generate programmes and projects that increase the scientific and technological capacity of developing countries and address problems relevant to their cultural and socio-economic development and of international scope; and
· To provide advice on science and technology policies to governments and other concerned institutions in the developing world.

The core funding for programmes is derived from ICSU and UNESCO as well as from annual membership subscriptions. COSTED works in close collaboration with a number of international scientific and development agencies in specific projects, which are funded on a case-to-case basis. The host governments generously provide operational costs of the Secretariats. 

he strength of COSTED is its affiliation to ICSU and thereby its access to the scientific and technical expertise of the highest orders worldwide and across disciplines, as well as its outreach to the grassroots level scientists and technologists in developing countries. This enables COSTED to play the role of a matchmaker between funding agencies, development issues and the stakeholders in developing countries. COSTED also has the competitive advantage of being able to encourage and facilitate the participation of least developed and isolated small countries to participate in international scientific projects. Over the years COSTED has gained wide experience and deep insights into the challenging task of using indigenous science and technology to provide sustainable solutions. The cultural, geographic and economic heterogeneity within the developing regions calls for strategic approaches in mounting regional and international programmes. Some major achievements in the recent years include the following:


· Growth of national members from 10 in 1990 to 30 in 2001;
· Co-sponsorship of COSTED by UNESCO since 1994;
· Successful establishment of thematic scientific networks particularly in the Latin American region;
· Mobilisation of substantial funding from UNESCO for the Latin American COSTED networks;
· Establishment of the Asia Oceania Network for Biological Sciences in Bangkok which now functions as a regional secretariat; and
· Reasonable success in project-based fund raising.

All signals indicate that the next century will be more science and technology driven. Many developing countries will see their "science gaps" with the industrialised west further widening. This points to a very important role for COSTED, in addressing the challenges ahead and taking advantage of opportunities for sustainable development. There is need to identify the important areas and programmes, which will equip the developing countries with appropriate capacities to enhance benefits that science, and technology will offer. Sustainable development will continue to be a fundamental doctrine in COSTED's programmes 

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Sasol SciFest - The National Festival of Science, Engineering & Technology.

March 28th to April 3rd means Sasol Scifest time again.  This month we showcase the Scifest: how it started, who makes it happen, how it has grown and what is in store for this year's Scifest. Visit the Scifest web-site for details of Scifest 2001.

How it Started
The idea came into being when Charl Malan went to Edinburgh in 1995, and on his return mentioned the science festival there to Eve Cambray, who was then Development Officer for the Grahamstown Foundation ( and is currently Manager of Sasol SciFest). She took the idea to the MD of the Grahamstown Foundation and it was decided to call a public meeting to gage public support and see if the idea would in fact work. The public meeting proved a valuable idea, as it showed that Grahamstown was ready for something like this, and the festival was set in motion. 

Getting it going
The first step, taken in November 1995, was to create a fund-raising brochure ('Countdown to '97) in order to launch the project and was sent to schools and other interested bodies who soon showed their support for the idea. In early 1996 a National Advisory Committee was formed to steer the first festival, with members from across the country. Brian Wilmot was appointed Director of the Festival, and Eve Cambray, the Manager.

Sponsorship is always an issue plaguing non-profit organisations, and Sasol's involvement came from the very first festival in 1997. Mr Wilmot began lobbying support for the festival, and managed to get Sasol Ltd interested, though for the first year on more of a trial basis. They agreed to be full sponsors of the first festival, but would only carry on their support if it was successful. The first Festival was a success, and now so is the partnership between Sasol and the Festival. As main sponsors, their contribution is invaluable to the Festival. Sub-sponsors of the Festival from the first year, and every year since is the Department of Arts, Culture, Science, & Technology. Another very important contributor to the festival is the Imperial College, who has been involved in the festival since the first year have brought an international flavour and experience to the festival. The first key speaker at the first Festival in 1997 was Dr David Phillips, head of chemistry at Imperial College, and a Faraday Award Winner. Their contribution has grown to the extent that in 2000 and 2001 they have sponsored two of the key lecturers.

Sasol SciFest 1997 had an attendance of just over 15 000, of whom about 80% were school children. This has grown to 40 000 in 1999 and just over 38 000 in 2000. The drop in figures was attributed to the fact that the first 5 days of the festival were during the school term. 

What it's about
Although the Festival does attract large amounts of school children, who come to learn about science and get excited about science, the Festival is not specifically aimed at children or scholars. Its aim is to inform and create awareness of science amongst all South Africans, and all those who attend the festival. It is a Festival aimed at promoting science for non-scientists, and through a creative and well structured programme, it gives those who attend the Festival a look into many different aspects of science, engineering and technology. The Festival organisers pride themselves on making science attainable to people from all walks of life.

What's in store for Scifest 2001
The programme has grown to the extent that Sasol SciFest 2001 has over 440 events in its programme, ranging from exhibitions, workshops, lectures, sunset shows, films, quizzes, competitions, street theater, and much more. All these events aim at creating an understanding and an excitement about science that was previously not there. Contributors to the festival are able to convey their own passion for the subject, and pass it on to those who attend the festival.
Sasol SciFest 2001 is perhaps the most exciting programme yet, and organisers are confident that attendance will grow from last years, already some workshops are sold out. Some of the more exciting contributors to the festival include Prof Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, whose passion for his field has lead him to form the Vega Trust. This organisation aims at producing scientific content for broadcasting, which is understandable and exciting to the public.

Another big draw card on this years Festival is Prof Lewis Wolpert, a controversial science, who has a passion for creating understanding of science and was for five years Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science. 

Local speakers are no less impressive and include the President of the MRC, Dr Malegapuru Makgoba, who will be giving a discussion in which he looks at the peril of pseudoscience and the broader implications of theories on HIV/AIDS. Dr Valerie Corfield is head of the MRC/University of Stellenbosch Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University and will be giving a lecture entitled 'Alone at home with your own genome'. Her expertise in genetics will be extended to workshops in which she gives participants the opportunity to create their own DNA, and learn about its structure and functions in a fun, hands-on way.

Dr Mark Welman (MTN Centre for Crime Prevention Studies based at Rhodes University) will argue that science should be viewed as an integral part of the human condition - and he will draw from with developments in crime fighting to show how science and understanding have formed a powerful alliance. Professor Graham Kerley of the University of Port Elizabeth and winner of the "Top Ten Conservationists of the Decade" award by the Mazda Wildlife Fund, will deliver the annual Cecily Niven Memorial Lecture on the topic of the Greater Addo Elephant Park.

Science, engineering and technology covers a wide range of topics, and the workshops at Sasol SciFest 2001 are a testament to that fact. Workshops include those by the South African Astronomical Society, in which participants are taught how to build telescopes, and microscopes. They learn about eclipses and spectroscopes. Nestle is sponsoring a chocolate-making workshop, there are textile technology workshops hosted by the Dakawa Art and Craft Community Centre. The South African Weather Bureau will host workshops which show participants how to create a cloud in a bottle, how to build weather instruments, and teach them more about El Nino.

Sasol SciFest 2001 is the result of hard work, dedication and support from a great number of people, but its contribution to the field of science is immeasurable. Universities are able to recruit school children into the field of science, school teachers are able to get their classes excited about science, and the general public is given a broader understanding of how science affects our daily lives and everyday activities.

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The NRF - promoting and supporting South African research


Research Support Agency

Research Information

National Facilities


A building in a quiet eastern suburb of Pretoria houses the research support arm of the National Research Foundation - a dynamic group of people with the interests of South African researchers at heart. The National Research Foundation (NRF), the only dedicated research support agency in South Africa, providing services and grants to support research and post-graduate research training, is vital to the development of science and technology in South Africa. Other areas of its core business are to promote research capacity development to serve the country's workplace needs and to establish equity and redress. It fosters partnerships and networks to make South Africa globally relevant and competitive, and it provides research information and strategic advice. 

On 1 April 1999, the NRF was established as an autonomous statutory body. The NRF's Research Support Agency invests funds, granted mainly by parliamentary vote, to institutions, teams, and individuals engaged in research. South African researchers will get research grants to the value of more than R162 million for 2001. The parliamentary grant is supplemented through joint ventures with other funding partners. The flagship of such ventures is the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP), a joint initiative by industry, research and education institutions and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

In the current financial year the DTI provides research funding to researchers in excess of R138,5 million through THRIP. The Programme supports the development of technology and appropriately skilled people for industry to improve South Africa's global competitiveness, by providing resources and mechanisms in support of collaborative research in the areas of science, engineering and technology. Funding is provided on a matching basis by industry and government. The latest THRIP annual report and success stories can be found at web site:

According to the NRF Act (1998), the object of the NRF is to support and promote research through funding, human resource development and the provision of the necessary research facilities, in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science (natural, engineering and social sciences and humanities) and technology, including indigenous knowledge. In so doing, it contributes to the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of the South Africa.

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Focus areas
The NRF has launched an entirely new suite of programmes and activities that are in line with South Africa's priorities and needs. This is the first year that researchers are receiving funding in nine new focus areas, all of which support fundamental and applied research. The focus areas are:
1. Unlocking the future: advancing and strengthening strategic knowledge
Through cutting-edge enquiry, South Africa can extend frontiers of knowledge and produce new discoveries. Research must be of exceptional quality, self-initiated, and nurture the spirit of open enquiry and exploration.
2. Distinct South African research opportunities
South Africa's special features enable it to play a unique role in the continent and in the region, and to make unique contributions to world knowledge. Research issues include human origins; southern skies; geological heritage; societies in transformation; and cultural heritage.
3. Economic growth and international competitiveness
To prosper, South Africa must grow its economy and integrate technology, management and labour. Research issues include technologies for competitiveness; and management for competitiveness.
4. Sustainable livelihoods: the eradication of poverty
Poverty places limits on access to education, health care, energy and clean water - compounded by many circumstances. Research issues in rural and urban areas include poverty and inequitable development; households and communities; population and health; housing and infrastructural services; and employment and income sources.
5. Conservation and management of ecosystems and biodiversity
The dynamics of the environment and ecosystems, as well as the impact of humans on these, must be monitored and interpreted. Research issues within the atmospheric, terrestrial, marine, estuarine, and freshwater systems include the management of species, populations, and ecosystems, and decision support; and society and the environment.
6. Information & communication technologies (ICT) and the information society in South Africa
South Africa must increase its number of ICT specialists and develop the broader information and on-line literacy needed. Research issues include technologies for the information society; integration and application of ICT into commerce, industry, and government; and ICT and information for social development.
7. The socio-political impact of globalisation: the challenge for South Africa
Globalisation affects political, social, and cultural interfaces. Research issues include ideologies and socio-economic processes within the global environment; the nation-state in the context of globalised politics and economics; and socio-cultural definitions of the State, society and the individual. 
8. Education for the knowledge era
South Africa has to make education work in an economically and socially divided country. Research issues include education in context; education and training for development; education in practice; and theories of education and knowledge generation.
9. Indigenous knowledge (IK) systems
IK systems need to be recorded, protected, and used in ways that benefit their owners and communities. Research issues include the production, use and transmission of IK and technology; the role of IK in nation-building; and IK at the interface with other systems of knowledge.

A new mission for the NRF's Research Support Agency:
"A dynamic, quality-driven organisation that provides leadership in the promotion and support of research and research capacity development in the natural, social and human sciences, engineering and technology to meet national and global challenges through:  * Investing in knowledge, people and infrastructure; 
* Promoting basic and applied research and innovation; 
* Developing research capacity and advancing equity and redress to unlock the full creative potential of the research community; 
* Facilitating strategic partnerships and knowledge networks; and 
* Upholding research excellence. 
The Research Support Agency realises this mission through the creativity and commitment of its people and partners."
More information on who can apply for research grants and how to
apply can be obtained from the web site

Institutional support
Institutional programmes that develop research capacity at technikons and historically black universities will continue at least until the end of 2001. More information at: and

Student support
The NRF provides two types of student support that complement each other, namely: 
* Free-standing bursaries, scholarships and fellowships (prestigious and equity scholarships); and 
* Grant-holder-linked bursaries. 
Free-standing bursaries, scholarships and fellowships are awarded to students directly on a competitive basis, while grant-holder-linked bursaries are granted to researchers within their NRF support package and may be awarded to students selected by the NRF grant-holder.
More information at:

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This programme has two main components:
* The NEXUS Database System  that consists of a set of databases mainly related to the humanities and social sciences; and
* The South African Data Archive, an archive of computerised raw quantitative data of large-scale regional, national and international research projects mainly in the humanities and social sciences. The NRF makes these datasets available to the research community.

Strategic Advice
The NRF's strategic advice unit ensures that the necessary data and recommendations are available when required for internal decision making at the NRF, or by national decision makers. The unit assists the NRF in positioning itself in the dynamic arena of global science and technology policy. 

International Science Liaison
International Science Liaison aims to forge and maintain strategic and intellectual alliances between individuals, institutions and organisations in the science research communities nationally and internationally to support the international competitiveness of the country. More information: <> 

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The NRF is responsible for managing four national research facilities. These are:

* The JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology
* The National Accelerator Centre;
* The South African Astronomical Observatory  (SAAO)
The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) - the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere - is currently being constructed at the SAAO site in the Northern Cape. The project is funded by five countries, and the NRF is the official South African SALT partner, with funding provided by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. More information:;
* The Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) 
MOBLAS-6, a new state-of-the-art facility at HartRAO, enables South Africa to measure with pinpoint accuracy the orbits of satellites and the movement of continents. The addition of MOBLAS-6 makes HartRAO the first station in Africa and in the southern hemisphere that has on one site the world's three most important scientific tools for determining the changing shape and physical dimensions of our Earth. MOBLAS-6 forms part of an international network of measuring stations in different parts of the globe. More information:


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The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

IITA was founded in Nigeria in 1967, with the mandate to improve food production in the humid tropics and develop sustainable production systems. It is now one of 16 Future Harvest Centers worldwide which share the goal of improving food security, eradicating poverty, and protecting the environment in developing countries. Funding for the centers comes from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and bilaterally from national and private donor agencies.

IITA is governed by an international board of trustees and is staffed by approximately 80 scientists and other professionals from over 30 countries, and approximately 1300 support staff. Staff are located at the lbadan campus in southwest Nigeria, and also at stations in other parts of Nigeria, and in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, and Uganda. Others are located at work sites in several countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa. 

IITA's mission is to enhance the food security, income, and well-being of resource-poor people primarily in the humid and subhumid zones of sub-Saharan Africa by conducting research and related activities to increase agricultural production, improve food systems, and sustainably manage natural resources, in partnership with national and international stakeholders.

To this end, IITA conducts research, germplasm conservation, training, and information exchange activities in partnership with regional bodies and national programs including universities, NGOs, and the private sector. The research agenda addresses crop improvement, plant health, and resource and crop management within a food systems framework and targeted at the identified needs of four major agroecological zones: the dry savanna, the moist savanna, the humid forests, and the midaltitude savanna. Research focuses on smallholder cropping and postharvest systems and on the following food crops: cassava, cowpea, maize, plantain and banana, soybean, and yam.

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