African Union is strapped for cash

The African Union Commission department for science, technology and human resources has run out of money.

This is essentially what Jean-Pierre Ezin, commissioner in the department, told this afternoon’s symposium on the impact the financial crisis has had on research.

The commission depends on three sources of funding—Africa’s 53 states, philanthropists and rich countries’ aid agencies—and all of them have been hard hit by the crisis, he said.

As a result, the department has not been able to raise all the funding needed to fulfil its planned activities for 2009.

Ezin did not mention what projects will fall by the wayside. The priorities for funding is clearer. Apparently, the commission president has asked all departments to draw up a prioritised list of activities for 2010. For Ezin’s department, this will be the Pan African University. Another is the department’s research grants programme.

Out of the speakers, Ezin by far voiced the most concern about the crisis and its effects. Science ministers from South Africa, India and Brazil all said there would be no major cuts for science.

Naledi Pandor addressing the symposium

Naledi Pandor addressing the symposium

South Africa’s science minister Naledi Pandor said her ministry will ‘cut the frills’. That will mean less dinners and conferences in 5* hotels, but researchers themselves will not suffer, she said.

South Africa’s midterm budget is due next week, so we will see how much truth there is to this.

But we still have to hear from the poorest countries how the crisis is affecting them. They should be sensitive to the same pressures as the AU commission, so their picture is probably not as rosy as that of the middle-income countries. Where were they at the TWAS symposium??

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net

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