It is highly probable that most of us have noticed the ubiquity of the term ‘nano’ as we consume information from the web and books. There is also a good chance that you have come across the term ‘nanotechnology’, unless you live in Neanderthal times, and its potential to revolutionize our short stint on Earth. Ideally, it is the future of technology where research on nanoparticles will be used to manufacture sturdier devices, as well as build tiny machines, among other uses.
The amount of research (mostly done by universities, corporation and startups) that goes into nanotechnology is enormous since the field itself incorporates other disciplines such as chemistry, physics and quantum mechanics. At the same time, researchers work alongside engineers, physicists as well chemists and computer scientists to build on what nanotechnology can offer in terms of applications. For instance, computer manufacturers are interested in the field as they stand to benefit from strides made in nanotechnology advances by building better and smaller computers.
While our local research ecosystem is not as robust nor well-established like those found in developed countries, it is always heartwarming when there’s a case that defies native inadequacies to shine in a field that we have not sufficiently invested in.
Dr. Edith Amuhaya, an Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry in the USIU-Africa School of Health Sciences will receive a research grant to study nanotechnology. The grant will technically make her a co-principal researcher in the South Africa-Canada-Kenya project that is part of the South-Africa-Canada Research Chairs Trilateral Partnership Initiative (SARChI). Two other co-principals are Professor Tebello Nyokong of South Africa’s Rhodes University and Professor Juan Scaiano of University of Ottawa, Canada.
The initiative will be funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada and South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF). One of the goals of these institutions is to spur research-based approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa by investing in a partnership between South Africa/Canada and any other Sub-Saharan country – which is Kenya in this scenario.
It should be noted that IDRC and NRF are interested in elevating the state of current research abilities in a bid to gain ground on common research interests for the three countries. Perhaps, the initiative wants to change Africa’s poor contribution to global research, which has been a common narrative for decades. For example, the continent contributed a measly 1.3% of research and development on the global scene in 2013. Even worse is the number of researchers churned out as they constitute 2.3% of world researchers.
The Vice Chancellor of USIU-Africa, Prof. Paul Zeleza has asserted that the partnership will augment the institution’s research productivity. According to him, the university’s approach to research, which is impactful to worldwide competition for talented students with limited resources and reputational capital will see improvements.