Research funding: Nigeria pledges US$5 billion endowment for research
(8 August 06)
In an extraordinary step forward for research in Africa, Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo has announced that he will use Nigeria’s oil wealth to make a US$5 billion endowment for science - to create a Nigerian National Science Foundation, according to UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and further reports in Nature magazine.
At a basic interest rate of say 5%, such an investment would generate research funding of US$250 million annually, exceeding the science budget of South Africa.
“In addition to the endowment fund, six Nigerian universities are to benefit from incentive measures which should enable them to rank among the top 200 universities in the world by 2020” says UNESCO. “Technology-based ‘good business’ zones are also to be created in each State. It is intended that the US$5 billion endowment fund be supplemented by donors.”
The final decision to create the foundation is not yet taken, but the President is keen to have the project in action before his term ends next Spring, reports Nature.
The Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Planning Commission will be working with UNESCO over the next few months to prepare a draft bill on the creation of the Foundation for the consideration of Parliament, according to UNESCO. “A memorandum on the subject was submitted to Cabinet in June by the Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Turner T. Isoun, and the Chief Economic Advisor to the President, Dr Osita Ogbu”, the UN body says.
Folarin Osotimehin, a science policy adviser at UNESCO, has been working with Nigeria on the plan, says Nature. The foundation would distribute the interest on the endowment through peer review of competitive grant schemes, “an unusual move for an African nation”.
Nature ’s recent (3 August) leader on the subject said the news was “a tremendous boon for the development of science in Africa's most populous nation — if it comes to fruition”.