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Latest FLAIR winners ease regional imbalance

An initiative to support Africa’s future science leaders has announced eight more winners, addressing the regional imbalance which raised eyebrows after the announcement of the first bunch of fellows.

The initial announcement of the Future Leaders – African Independent Research programme winners generated criticism because 12 of the 21 winners were from South Africa.

In the second batch, which brings the total to 29, there are no South Africans. Three are from Kenya, two from Nigeria, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Senegal contributing one each.

While South Africans remain dominant, they now represent less than half of the winners.

The FLAIR scheme is funded by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and jointly managed with the Kenya-based African Academy of Sciences. Winners receive £300,000 (US$390,000) over two years along with training from the AAS in skills such as publishing and entrepreneurship.

The programme’s second call for applications closes on 15 May.

The additions to the FLAIR programme are:

Ezekiel Mugendi Njeru (Kenya), Kenyatta University – The use of microorganisms to increase nutrient uptake for increased yield and drought tolerance in semi-arid parts of Kenya

Elizabeth Ndunda (Kenya), Machakos University – Development of sensors for environmental pollution

Wilfred Odadi (Kenya), Egerton University – Optimisation of livestock grazing for conservation and farming

Zebib Yenus Nuru (Ethiopia), University of South Africa – Development and optimisation of solar absorbing surfaces for energy conversion  

Balla D. Ngom (Senegal) Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar – Batteries and supercapcitors for used in renewable energy

Raphael Tshimanga (DRC), Universite de Kinshasa – A catchment classification system for health and sustainability in the Congo Basin

Emmanuel Balogun (Nigeria), Ahmadu Bello University – Treatment against the causal organism of sleeping sickness

Rufus Akinyemi (Nigeria), University of Ibadan – Genetics of memory loss after a stroke.