African scientist denounces ’scientific apartheid’

April 19th, 2008 - 10:58 am ICT by admin  

Durban, April 19 (IANS) The world risks “scientific apartheid” between the rich and poor countries unless research and technology is better used to benefit the underprivileged, one of Africa’s leading science experts has said. Ismail Serageldin, director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, made the comments in his keynote address to the BioVision Alexandria conference in Egypt on Monday.

He said it was a “sad indictment” on government spending that philanthropists like Bill Gates are contributing most to addressing the scientific challenges of the developing world, Scidev.Net reported.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, said the world needs to run on two scientific tracks: putting existing technologies into practice for the poor, whilst simultaneously developing new technologies to address problems.

Sachs, who addressed the conference through video conferencing, outlined the need for “RDD&D” - research, development, demonstration and diffusion of technology to those who need it most.

Serageldin warned that science seems to be benefiting the rich, with not enough focus on solving the problems of the poor. “We need a little more than knowledge…we need wisdom,” he said.

Serageldin called for developed countries to allocate five percent of their research and development budgets towards addressing the problems of the poor. He said that even if the research were conducted in universities in developed countries, this would still contribute greatly.

“Different regions need to address different problems, but all will require the best of science,” he said.

Food security is a major challenge to the global scientific community, Serageldin said, with increasing pressure from a growing population and demands for more animal feed and bio fuels, as well as the effects of climate change.

Serageldin also called for more attention to public health problems in developing countries, particularly the crossover between HIV/AIDS with tuberculosis, cholera, emerging diseases such as bird flu, and the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and tobacco related illness.

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