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Ocean science urgently needs investment

Africa’s next big science investment should target its oceans, but funding and political support need to be sustained.

Last year, African space science had a big change in fortune. The allocation of more than half of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope – a global science and engineering project worth US$2 billion – to the continent opened the floodgates for funding, especially for equipment and an expansion of research training. But there is another important area that requires similarly massive investment: marine science.

A new maritime plan — “2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy” — could do for African ocean science what the SKA has done for astronomy. But while the plan looks good on paper, it remains to be seen whether African governments are prepared to provide the sustained funding and long-term political support required to turn the dream into reality. Certainly, the continent has need for marine science: the waters around Africa are among the least studied in the world. Research is needed to tackle the enormous challenges that industries such as fishing, oil drilling, tourism and shipping pose for marine areas.

Scientists estimate that only half of the marine species off the eastern coast of Africa have been scientifically described. And for known species, questions remain, such as where they live and what they need to survive…


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