Center to boost China-Africa scientific cooperation

Scientific communities from China and Africa will enhance cooperation in agricultural technologies, veterinary medicine, wastewater treatment, environmental protection and food security, and training young science and engineering talent, according to academics and professionals from both sides.

The remarks were made on Friday at the opening of the African Academy of Sciences China Center in Beijing, where nine new Chinese fellows to the organization were welcomed. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, the African Academy of Sciences was founded in 1985 and serves as the highest academic institution on the continent.

Felix Dakora, president of the African Academy of Sciences, said during the center's launch event, co-hosted by the academy and the Beijing Global Talent Exchange Association, that China and Africa share a long and rich history of cooperation in many areas from international politics to scientific development.

The scientific communities from the two regions have created innovations that have catapulted development for their peoples, he said.

"It is gratifying that we have colleagues from China becoming fellows of the academy," Dakora said. "We value your contribution very much."

Creating a China branch of the academy will promote collaboration and allow the African scientific community to carry out its visions and missions more effectively with Chinese peers, he said.

Many African students now come to China for postgraduate studies and training, Dakora added. He encouraged African youth to take advantage of scholarships and opportunities to study in China, thus strengthening the foundations of China-Africa relations.

Jia Yinsuo, chairman of the academy's China branch, said the academy signed five collaboration agreements with Chinese companies, universities and research institutions on Friday, covering fields ranging from wastewater management to safeguarding food security.

Li Fengting, a professor of environmental science at Tongji University, said many African students who come to study in China eventually become politicians and researchers in their home countries.

"Talent training is a very meaningful and important undertaking for China-Africa collaboration," he said.

Kang Le, a noted entomologist and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said his team often works with African colleagues to jointly collect and study insects in Africa, which may lead to discoveries for pest control and safeguarding food security for both regions.

Yang Huanming, chairman of biotech company BGI Group, said the African continent holds a treasure trove of genetic information critical for anthropology and human genome research. However, one of the main obstacles for China-African scientific cooperation is the uneven development of African nations, he said.

Yang said it is important for future research collaborations and professional training programs to be carried out locally in Africa, rather than taking the projects and staff outside of the continent. This would ensure the research could best suit the local environment and help the local people.

Jin Shuanggen, a professor of information technology at Henan Polytechnic University, said China has many information technology assets, such as the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, that can contribute to socioeconomic development in Africa.

One of the limiting factors for economic growth in Africa is the lack of infrastructure, but China's remote sensing and satellite technologies can provide accurate, up-to-date data for navigation, urban planning, precision agriculture, weather forecasting, pollution tracking and disaster mitigation, he said.

"Information technology and digital infrastructure are areas that China and Africa can have huge cooperation potential," he said.