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Building Africa’s Scientific Talent

Ten years ago, a top South African physicist called on Africa’s educators to nurture scientific achievement by improving the capabilities of the continent’s youngest researchers. But despite significant improvements, much more work is needed to return Africa to the pinnacle of innovation that it once occupied.

TORONTO – Ten years ago, South African physicist Neil Turok made a bold prediction: the world’s next Einstein will be from Africa. A decade later, it is worth considering whether the continent is any closer to finding the next global genius.

Statistically, there is indeed a high probability that it will happen. By 2050, 40% of the world’s young people will be African. By virtue of demographics alone, it stands to reason that Africa is destined to generate prodigies in science or technology.

Africans have led the world in science before. In fact, some of humanity’s greatest innovations – from vaccines to brain surgery – were pioneered by Africans. One of the oldest measuring devices ever used, the Lebombo Bone, was carved by people believed to have lived some 35,000 years ago in modern-day eSwatini (Swaziland). In other words, mathematics itself is an African invention.