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How much Local Knowledge and Expertise in Earth Sciences is Developed by Africans, in Africa?

The African continent contains some of the world’s richest mineral resources. For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo produces most of the world’s cobalt; Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mozambique are major contributors to global tantalum output. These minerals are important constituents in modern electronics. The continent also has the bulk of global reserves of platinum and palladium, metals which are critical in the rapidly evolving market for renewable energy and electric vehicles. With such resources to hand, African researchers should be contributing significantly to the academic discipline of earth science – the physical and chemical makeup of the solid Earth, the oceans and atmosphere. Only six countries are able to undertake active geoscientific work: South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Namibia and Tanzania. These countries are within the top seven producers of earth science research in Africa. This suggests there is a link between a national survey’s functionality and a country’s research output. Although we have no information on why these countries have more active surveys, it might relate to their abundant mineral wealth. One of the most enlightening findings in our research is the link between spending on research, and research output and impact. In Africa, research spending has increased from US$4 (1996) to US$42 (2017) per capita. The global average has increased from US$100 to US$300 per capita over the same period. The figures for high-income countries are significantly higher: about US$450 per capita in 1996, which more than doubled over the past 20 years to US$1,064. If these trends are plotted over trends in earth science research output, clear parallels emerge between research funding input and research output.