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Two Cameroonian early-career researchers bag prestigious FLAIR fellowship

Two Cameroonian scientists are among 29 young African researchers who have been awarded the juicy Future Leaders – African Independent…

Two Cameroonian scientists are among 29 young African researchers who have been awarded the juicy Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) fellowship.

The outstanding fellows – the second FLAIR cohort – were chosen from a competitive pool of more than 400 applicants, the African Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society jointly announced on Tuesday. Their research is said to squarely fit to the needs of the continent.

Supported by UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the fellowship will support research in several domains on the continent, amongst which are: new techniques for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, managing water shortages to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, improved methods to store cleaner energy and targeting health conditions that are most acute for people living in Africa. The institutions promoting the fellowship are keen on developing and retaining African scientific talents in order to keep the continent on the move in terms of achieving sustainable development.

In Cameroon, like in much of Africa, scientists have a problem of scarce funding for research and development, which hampers innovation. Cameroon and most other African countries are yet to keep to a 2016 pledge by their heads of state to raise national gross expenditure on R&D to at least 1% of GDP by 2025.

Therefore, the FLAIR fellowships stimulate science and technology – whose role are important in boosting innovation, productivity andeconomic growth.

Colince Kamdem of the Yaounde-based Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases (CRID) will be researching on the prevention of malaria, which killed 4,510 people in Cameroon in 2018. Malaria has one of the highest mortality rates in Cameroon and across the continent, and control efforts are being thwarted by growing levels of insecticide-resistance among mosquitoes that spread the infection. To prevent the same thing happening to newly developed pesticides,Kandem will be exploring the rate that clothianidin resistance develops, and the genetic changes underpinning it, to inform future control measures.

Meanwhile, Elie Kamseu, affiliated to the Local Materials Promotion Authority (MIPROMALO), will be researching towards developing a sustainable concrete variant, geopolymers composed of laterites – the iron and aluminium-rich clays which are local, plentiful, and eco-friendly.Kamseu’s knowledge in environmental, structural and materials engineering will help to meet Cameroon’s development goals as the country seeks to become an emerging economy by 2035.

“The FLAIR fellowship, as from the date I had the information, appears to me as a challenge, particularly as my young institution [MIPROMALO] is building the foundations for research and innovation in the area of local materials which are significant for the emergence of Cameroon. The good new comes to strengthen my determination to achieve outstanding results frommy project, very important for my career as researcher and my host institution that needs this type of support to grow and become a good research institution with international standards,” Kamseu said. The young researcher is poised to conceive and produce building materials that challenge climate change and temperature rise.

All 29 young researchers are on an advantageous position of networking and collaborating with other African scientists unique in supporting them in their pursuit of excellence in science. Besides mentoring and training courses, the scheme will provide fellows with an award of up to £150,000 (circa FCFA 111 million) per year for two years to cover research fellow’s salary, research expenses and institutional overhead.

“The AAS welcomes the new cohort of FLAIR grantees to our growing postdoctoral family. Postdoctoral programmes are vital in training and developing early career researchers into research leaders whose scientific leadership will influence policies that will promote the socio-economic development of the continent,”Professor Nelson Torto, Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences said.

*Amindeh Blaise Atabong is a freelance journalist with keen interest on health, science, tech, environment, conflict and global development.