Fostering Chemical Science Training for Africa’s Development

Dr. Giles takes participants through LCMS techniques during the workshop

An initiative to build capacity of African chemical scientists through training and equipment installation continue to register progress, following the staging of the first training course on Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LCMS) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The weeklong training that commenced Monday September 18, is supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and implemented under the auspices of the Pan Africa Chemistry Network (PACN). A total of 12 participants drawn from Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana will be inducted on analytical chemistry techniques that combines the separation power of liquid chromatography with mass analysis. During the training, participants will also learn how to maintain and service LCMS machines.

In her message to the participants, Dr. Helen Driver who leads RSC activities in Africa said the training was part of targeted efforts to bring analytical training to Africa; and was primed to deliver new set of skills to over 400 beneficiaries by 2020.

She urged the participants to maximize learning, interact with the trainers and build long lasting networks that could be leveraged for sustainable solutions to Africa’s teaching and research challenges.

A section of participants interacts on the sidelines of the workshop

“If you are looking to collaborate with UK, we have a scheme with the Royal Society which has up to £12000 available per award to support the cost of research and travel,” Dr. Helen informed the participants.

One of the participants, Dr. Nathaniel Boadi, from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, said he hoped to impact his colleagues and students with the new knowledge he would acquire from the training.

“A few institutions that have the LCMS equipment cannot use them because of lack of knowledge. This training is therefore very important and we thank the organizers for the move,” Dr. Boadi averred.

To Dr. Giles Edwards of Anthias Consulting who authored the course, chemical analysis remains a critical aspect of industrialization as it touches on a broad range of issues from characterization, to quality control; with wide applications in pharmaceuticals and clinical applications.

Despite its promise for Africa, Dr. Giles opine that the biggest challenges facing the continent with regards to chemical analysis is the prohibitive costs of the equipment.

For this reason, he said, organizations such as RSC, and the Recycling Organization for Research Opportunities (RORO) were working to bridge the deficit through volunteering expertise besides helping African research institutions acquire essential equipment.

Prof. Gachanja takes participants through operations of GCMS machine during April 2017 workshop

“Do not be afraid to use the equipment. Experiment and have fun,” Dr. Giles nudged the trainees.

Prof. Anthony Gachanja, a lead trainer under the PACN said the LCMS was an important technique as it covers up to 70% of compounds.

“We now have a centre of excellence here at JKUAT on matters chemical analysis, thanks to the support from RSC, FASTA and RORO. It means that we can develop both theoretical and hands-on knowledge base for our scientists and students,” Said Prof. Gachanja.

Besides LCMS training, RSC has since 2008 supported training of african scientists in Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. The initiative has so far mounted 10 trainings in JKUAT in its mission to lay a stable base for science through capacity building.