The Impact of African Science: A Bibliometric Analysis

Manuel Mira Godinho, ISEG (School of Economics and Management) of the Technical University of Lisbon

A growing consensus seems to be developing in Africa, recognizing that both scientific research and scientific publication rather than being a luxury are a requirement to create the necessary long term potential for sustainable economic development. It is known that Africa's research has been fragile. However, the analysis of bibliometric data indicates that there was a turning point around 2004, when the continent's output didn't get yet to 15,000 publications annually. Since that year African publications have grown faster than the world average, with its number more than duplicating and bringing Africa’s world share up to 2.51% in 2011. Another important result is that despite the continent’s output as a whole is still lagging behind that of individual countries like Russia, India and Brazil, African scientific publications are doing better than these emerging economies in terms of the impact measure computed in this study. These advances are overshadowed by the fact the continent’s production is still highly concentrated. South Africa and Egypt alone have contributed to more than 50 % of Africa’s output since 1981 and the top 10 countries to about 85%. Also, of the top 25 most prolific African universities, 10 are in South Africa and 9 in Egypt. Further, the relatively good impact results are strongly influenced by South Africa’s share in the overall output. Moreover, while the relative scientific output in terms of GDP is close to the world average and rising, the relative scientific output in terms of population is still lagging behind the world average, being Tunisia the only exception to this pattern. The paper also analyzed the scientific specialization of the continent and by country. The results indicate that the overall Africa’s specialization is not too different of the world pattern with the exception of Agricultural Sciences, which are relatively more important in Africa. The analysis of the individual countries has highlighted that just a few countries have adequate critical masses to pursue their scientific endeavor in each disciplinary area. As stated elsewhere, Africa is too big to follow one script. Each country must evaluate what already exists and, with a realistic vision (Lundvall, 2009), develop their knowledge frontiers to respond to local circumstances and opportunities. As specified in the last Human Development Report, one of the most powerful instruments for Human Development is education. Education boosts people’s self-confidence and enables them to find better jobs, engage in public debate and make demands on government for health care, social security and other entitlements (UNDP, 2013). More investment in research will not only respond to problems of the society but also give the researchers/professors better capabilities and knowledge to teach and educate the new generations. A long-term vision is needed to promote such virtuous cycle.

About the speaker
Manuel Mira Godinho is Professor of Economics at ISEG, Lisbon University. He was awarded a PhD degree in Science and Technology Policy from SPRU, Sussex University, in 1995. He has published in the areas of economics of innovation, intellectual property rights and science and technology policy. He has also worked as a consultant for public and private organizations in Portugal and other countries.

Venue: Conference Room

Date: 16 December 2013

Time: 14:30 - 15:30


UNU-MERIT