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South African Astronomy Started an Important Journey Two Decades Ago

An initiative to attract and train future scientists in the field welcomed its first group of students under the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme. Beyond its scientific impact, the idea was to attract and nurture young talent, addressing shortages in scientific and engineering fields in South Africa. At the time, there were only about 40 astronomers with PhDs in the country. All were white. By mid 2023, the Programme had produced 439 honours graduates and 215 master’s degrees in astrophysics and space science. Another 27 honours and 21 master’s students are set to graduate shortly, and similar numbers of students will complete their degrees in 2024.A 2023 survey of programme graduates had 230 respondents, including 53 graduates from 19 other African countries. The largest numbers were from Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia and Sudan. Many have returned home.