Africa's scientific tradition.

Author:Versi, Anver

This year India will roll out another batch of half-a-million engineers; China will produce enough scientists to populate a small African country. The industrialised world, including Japan, will continue to pump in several billion dollars in an effort to encourage yet more young people to take up science-based studies.

India planned for a science-based economy as far back as 1958 with the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay. The plan was to roll out 10,000 engineers per year. Over time, IIT had blossomed into one of the most respected technical instruction institutions in the world and it has spawned a number of affiliates all over the country. The net result is that India today is neck and neck with China in terms of scientifically accomplished human resources.

Behind what seems like a startling growth of the Indian economy lie four decades of preparation and many trace it back to the establishment of the IIT in the 1950s. The strong scientific backbone created by this institution has allowed India to now challenge the industrialised world in terms of engineering products and in the IT field.

Ditto for China. Although China remained concealed behind the Red Curtain for considerable time, we now know that it was busy churning out top quality scientists in all fields.

Both India and China also ensured that their most gifted students received instruction in the very best institutions in the world--institutions such as MIT in the US and Imperial College in the UK and that they worked in the best scientific environments available.

Both countries realised decades ago that knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, is the key to comparative success in the world. Whoever has knowledge and can put that knowledge to practical use rules the world--both literally and metaphorically.

It has always been so. Those who knew about the properties of metals and how to shape them into spears ruled over those who didn't. Today, those who can make nuclear weapons rule over those who cannot.

Africa was first

There was a time when Africa was first in the field of knowledge and science. Cheikh Anta Diop, the celebrated author of the African Origins of Civilisation demonstrates that the building blocks of what we call civilisation, including the invention and application of mathematics, began in ancient Africa.

In Stolen Legacy, George G M James declares that Greek philosophy is a misnomer and documents the African origins of...

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