Scientific Research -- A driver for the African Renaissance

On 15 September 2014, during her official visit to Equatorial Guinea, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, took part in the second ceremony of the 2014 UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.

The ceremony took place in the presence of the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, and several State Leaders, including the President of Mauritania and Chairman of the African Union, and the Presidents of Congo, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Kenya, and the Prime Minister of Gabon, as well as senior representatives of the Côte d'Ivoire and Rwanda.

"There can be no development and no sustainable development without science and research," said the Director-General in her keynote speech.

"The presence of so many Heads of State is a clear sign of the mobilization of the international community, and of Africa in particular, to accelerate research," declared the President of Equatorial Guinea, announcing a donation of 2 million dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) for the fight against Ebola. "Science is a heritage of humanity and everyone should have access to it, without distinction," he continued.

The Prize-winners, Professor Hossein Baharvand (Iran), Professor of Stem Cells and Developmental Biology at the Royan Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Technology, André Bationo (Burkina-Faso), President of Action for Integrated Development and the Instituto de Medicina Tropical von Humboldt (Peru), presented their research.

"Research is a strategic weapon, and Africa cannot let others take decisions about its funding and therefore its orientation,” highlighted the Professor Bationo.  

"Investment in scientific research is not a luxury, but a channel through which major problems can be solved, while also participating in the enrichment of the world's scientific heritage. The establishment of this Prize contributes to the spirit of the new Africa, Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance,” underlined the President of Benin, Dr. Boni Yayi, calling for the creation of a center for research against epidemics in Africa, which the African Union is considering.

"Africa has the means to participate in the global scientific revolution. African scientists are present in the world's largest laboratories, and have received the highest distinctions. Africa must rely on its own talents to accelerate its growth,” added the Chairperson of the African Union and President of Mauritania, Mr. Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The Director-General highlighted UNESCO’s commitment "to support research, international cooperation, to create institutions, laboratories and universities to meet the requirements of modern science, to expand the pool of young researchers, who contribute to the improvement of our knowledge, and our lives.”

On the margins of the ceremony, a Roundtable of Heads of State and a Scientific Conference were organized to deepen scientific and political mobilization against pandemics and the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

These discussions, organized by UNESCO, brought together a number of experts and scholars, including Professor Luc Montagnier, Nobel Laureate, Dr. Ki Zerbo, WHO coordinator for Central Africa, Pr Eholié (Abidjan) and Opara (South Africa).

The Director-General and the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, also held a working meeting to discuss issues of common interest in all areas of cooperation with UNESCO, including strengthening the human and scientific capacities of the country through the support for the Scientific Observatory in Malabo, established by decision of the African Union.