and profoundly affected the local economy. Some researchers in South Africa received death threats and at some point even needed armed guards in front of our laboratories. Against all odds, we persevere and are a leading country in SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance.
This kind of scientific discrimination against researchers from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is widespread.
It is time to enter a new global phase where researchers in Africa and other LMICs are recognized and not punished for their scientific discoveries. Scientists in Africa and other low- and middle-income countries have important contributions to make in advancing global health, especially in areas such as responding to epidemics and infectious diseases. It is time to invest more in science in LMICs so that the world is better prepared to deal with future epidemics and pandemics. HICs, which for centuries have discriminated against the work of scientists in Africa, are only now beginning to recognize the leadership role they have played during this pandemic.
Two fellow South Africans, Professor Glenda Gray and Professor Penny Moore, were also part of this group, so in total, South Africans accounted for more than 11% of the participants.
and conducted a successful trial of a COVID-19 vaccine with nearly 500,000 healthcare professionals,
a trial that proved the effectiveness of a vaccine and protected South Africa’s health workforce before a massive wave of infections hit South Africa. The South African scientific community can now produce results on the neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 variants within days to guide booster vaccination programs worldwide.
The South African scientific community has become highly resourceful and efficient during the pandemic, having worked in a context of travel bans and vaccine hoarding in HICs,
both have diminished access to key scientific reagents and vaccines.
It is fitting that these symposia are held at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study in Stellenbosch, which is close to where our Stellenbosch University data science offices are located. I am fortunate to be able to participate in these symposia and to have been invited to present at the first Nobel Symposium in Africa Symposia Series, the Nobel Symposium in Physics on Predictability in Science in the Age of Artificial Intelligence in October 2022. In addition, South Africa South will also host the Nobel Symposium in Physiology or Medicine and Chemistry in 2023 and in Economic Sciences in 2024. We hope the world will come to South Africa and provide international recognition of the true value of science being carried out on the continent.
Importantly, we need top scientists from Africa and other low-income countries to be supported to stay or return to where they are most needed. I am particularly proud of two previous doctoral students I taught, Dr. Justin Manasa and Dr. Shikulile Moyo, who returned to their country of residence in Zimbabwe and Botswana to lead molecular laboratories at the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) and Botswana Harvard Partnership (BHP) that were crucial to the identification and characterization of the omicron.
African science must have a central place on the world stage and needs to be recognized and supported. African scientists can help the world prepare for the next pandemic. But the way science is done and recognized needs to change. Scientists in Africa and other LMICs need the opportunity to lead global consortia, host major grants and events, and drive the global scientific agenda. The world will soon realize that our tireless energy and knowledge are grounded in the drive to save lives – lives that are close to us, lives of people whose names, families and communities we know and hold in our hearts.
I have received honoraria from Illumina as a member of the Infectious Disease Testing Advisory Board. I received partial travel support to attend the Nobel Symposium in Medicine, Sweden, in May 2022.
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Low and middle income data.
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© 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.