Africa’s vulnerability to diseases such as ebola, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV should be a wake-up call to the world to collaborate with the continent in resolving these intractable problems.

This is the word from Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, speaking in London at the opening of a conference on higher education and science innovation in Africa. The event was attended by the ministers of science and technology from across Africa including Senegal, Ethiopia and Uganda, bringing together more than 200 people as part of the Planet Earth Institute’s #scienceAfrica campaign to evaluate the role of industry in scientific development.

Minister Pandor says the continent’s disease burden should not cause it to become a subject of scrutiny by research teams outside Africa, but full participants in bringing about solutions.

“We agree that research is international and collaborative, but we want the international to mean from Africa by Africa based scientists too,” she says, adding that policy-makers are often struck by the number of “best brains” working in labs outside Africa, contributing to the innovation strengths of countries in North.

The Minister says the developed world should co-operate with Africa, to create purposeful partnerships with a well-crafted agenda of science-based initiatives, and public and development funding that adequately resources researchers and their institutions.

“The mandate for our research, development and innovation must be unequivocal – find solutions to our challenges be innovative and responsive. This call for a science active Africa is a further removal of the bonds of colonisation. Africa must free itself from the belief that someone out there cares more about our problems than we do,” the Pandor says.

One way to achieve this was to locate major research infrastructure in Africa to develop, attract and retain talent; establish regional co-operation in science and technology, to address policy priorities such as public health; and international partnerships should be co-owned and co-determined by all constituents.

The Minister adds that a focus on interdisciplinary studies, entrepreneurship and strong business partnerships would be essential for African universities to play their required role in building African knowledge-based economies.