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African Diaspora Biotech Summit 2017: Plant Scientists Develop New Skills in Cambridge To Tackle Problems at Home

Lab training workshop and biotech conference, organised by Carol Ibe, second year Ph.D. student and Gates Scholar, aim to build African research capacity in agricultural sciences

Researchers and students gathered at the Sainsbury Laboratory on Tuesday 4 April for the inaugural African Diaspora Biotech Summit.

The narrative is changing – from Africa catching up, to Africa leading. – Prof Eilís Ferran

According cam, 17 postgraduate students and academics from six African countries who had earlier taken part in the Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop, held in Cambridge between 27 March and 3 April were among the participants.

The Summit and the Laboratory Training Workshop were organised by Carol Ibe, a second year plant sciences Ph.D. student (Newnham College) and Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Carol, who was born in the USA but grew up in Nigeria, is also the founder of JR Biotek, a non-profit organisation that aims to help train future African scientists and build African research capacity.

Opening the day’s proceedings, she said:

“Today, we celebrate a unique gathering that brings together more than 70 students, academics and professionals across different disciplines from Africa and the diaspora to discuss the current state of Africa’s bioeconomy, and how we all may work together to find more practical solutions to the problems facing Africa and the African people.”

Addressing her fellow African attendees, she added:

“It is time for us to take the lead in encouraging our governments to invest in quality education, training and capacity building, so as to provide our young people and future generations with the right knowledge and skills they need to compete in the global economy.

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It is time for us to take the lead in influencing policy decisions that will support industrialisation that will create employment opportunities for our many unemployed graduates.

It is the time for us to take the lead in important discussions and actions that bring about good governance, and which create the right atmosphere for strategic investments in our countries in Africa.”

Delivering the day’s Welcoming Address, Prof. Eilís Ferran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations, said:

“The narrative is changing – from Africa catching up, to Africa leading. Less brain drain, more brain gain and brain circulation.  Research mobility is critical to addressing the global challenges we all face.

The complexity, the scale, and the urgency of the global challenges demand that we work together.

The University of Cambridge has developed one model of partnership that illustrates our approach to partnerships with African countries.”

Addressing the Workshop participants, who over the past ten days had gained new knowledge and skills through lectures and practical lab work, Prof Ferran concluded:

“You are the pioneers: not only as participants in this inaugural workshop, but because you will go back to your own countries and lead the way in developing innovative solutions to pressing problems.

And though you have been developing the same skills here, you will each return and apply them to issues that are unique to your own communities.

What you are doing today makes me optimistic for the future –the future of Cambridge, and the future of each of your countries.”

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