Ghana is courting the international scientific community to have Africa’s first-ever Pan African synchrotron light source research facility on the continent.
The facility allows detailed studies of objects ranging in size from human cells, through viruses down to atoms, with a precision that is not possible by other means.
The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, made a case for Ghana when he opened a five-day joint Africa Light Source and Pan African Conference on Crystallography in Accra, where scientists from across the world are meeting to deliberate on the future establishment of a Pan African synchrotron light source research facility in Africa.
The conference, which is on the theme: “Crystallography: a tool for sustainable development in Africa, attracted 300 participants from Ghana and other countries, including South Africa, the United States of America and Australia.
Delivering a speech on behalf of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Prof. Boateng said the country was prepared to host the continent’s first ever-light source laboratory.
He pledged the government’s support to champion the African Light Source initiative and make it an official project of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as advocate multilateral relationships between the world’s light sources and various AU member states, along with their universities, research institutions and commercial industries.
“We also have plans to provide bursaries for students in synchrotron-related science and technology, as well as visiting appointments for post-PhD scientists and engineers, both Ghanaian to light sources and personnel from light sources to Ghana,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo pledged to rally his colleagues to bring the project to fruition as “this is not a mean undertaking, considering both the huge financial capital and technical infrastructure support it may need to achieve this.”
“I am confident that with the right political will from African governments, collectively, we should be able to do it, considering the benefits in agriculture, health, energy, mining, drugs discovery, engineering and many more,” he said.
To help bridge the gap between industry and research, President Akufo-Addo reiterated his last year’s promise to review the national budgetary allocation to science and technology from the current 0.05 per cent to one per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is a requirement of the African Agricultural Development Programme (CADDP).
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Student Affairs of the University of Ghana, Prof. Kwame Offei, enumerated the benefits of the synchrotron light sources, saying they were prime tools for pushing back the boundaries of scientific investigation on new materials and in living organisms.
“As centres of excellence for fundamental research, these light sources will play very essential roles in stimulating innovation and enhancing competitiveness for our industries,” he said.
The Chair of the African Light Source Project, Prof. Simon Connell, said the development of a road map for the continent’s first-ever light source was underway which would spell out concrete outcomes.
The road map relates to developing the user base, the projects, deep capacity building, promoting networks, scientific and technical exchanges, building associated local infrastructural capacity, raising the profile of the project politically and developing the Pan African strategic plan with African leadership.