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Namibia's academic appeal

I arrived in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, this morning, as part of a 10 day linkurl:trip to Africa;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23265/ on behalf of The Scientist to talk to researchers about the state of science on the continent. In no time, I was being whisked over to the linkurl:University of Namibia;http://www.unam.na/ by molecular biologist Kazhila Chinsembu. Chinsembu is originally from Zambia but has been at the University of Namibia for four years. As we drove t

By | April 5, 2006

I arrived in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, this morning, as part of a 10 day linkurl:trip to Africa;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23265/ on behalf of The Scientist to talk to researchers about the state of science on the continent. In no time, I was being whisked over to the linkurl:University of Namibia;http://www.unam.na/ by molecular biologist Kazhila Chinsembu. Chinsembu is originally from Zambia but has been at the University of Namibia for four years. As we drove through the clean, modern-looking city, he explained why. One of the main factors was stability, he said. Back in Zambia, the university had been closed down seven times in the seven years he worked there as a result of staffing problems, salary disputes, student unrest or political problems. In the four years he's been in Namibia there hasn't been a single closure. Another factor is the relatively good financial prospects in Namibia, which has been independent of linkurl:South Africa;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23266/ for the past 16 years. In Zambia, his monthly salary was about US$400 a month; now it is more like $2,500. On top of all this, Namibia is one of the few countries in Africa where people with jobs can get hold of mortgages to buy houses, and car loans. All in all, its an attractive place, which might explain why roughly three-quarters of the University of Namibia's academic staff is from elsewhere in Africa. The country is drawing professional people in like bees to a honey-pot. But not all is sweet for the country's scientists. The university's head of biology, Godwin Kaaya (from Tanzania) explained that research funds are almost non-existent. For the whole university the annual research budget is in the region of one million Namibian dollars, or US$142,000. That's the whole university. What this means for scientists is a lack of equipment and all the obvious results. For many of them it is a case of keeping their research careers going by hook and crook, while applying for funds from donor agencies in the world at large.
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