Building Capacity of African Chemistry Scientists

Prof. Ikua delivers the Vice Chancellor’s addresses during the opening session of the workshop

There was aura of expectation and enthusiasm as fifteen delegates drawn from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia converged at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology for the hands-on training on Gas Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). The training organised under the auspices of the Pan Africa Chemistry Network (PACN) aims to equip African scientists with skills and knowledge in order to deliver sustainable solutions to challenges facing the continent in critical areas such as environment, energy, food, health and water.

Christina Pius, an assistant lecturer in environmental chemistry at Mkwawa University College of Education, Tanzania said she was hopeful the training will prepare her for her teaching and research challenges of today and tomorrow.

“I learnt about the training from a colleague. Ultimately, I hope to get analytical and instrumentation skills that I can use to guide my students as well as do my own work,” Christina said.

She added that the training also created opportunity to network with scientists from other countries; and even know different types of instruments that are available in different countries in the region.

Christina (centre) confers with colleagues shortly after the opening ceremony

Another participant, Musa Kasone, who works as Government Chemist in Uganda’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said glaring gaps still remain in his country with regards to sample preparation, method development and validation.

“I hope to take back the knowledge gained as a way of building capacity of the team in order to deliver high quality services to the people of Uganda and beyond,” Musa averred.

On his part, Dr. Fredrick Kangara, the thematic leader for analytical chemistry programmes at Maseno University, Kenya said the training would equip him with troubleshooting and maintenance skills for GC-MS equipment at his institution.

“Sometimes the equipment breaks down and there is nobody to repair it. We have also had challenges with spectral interpretation. Being knowledgeable in these areas will immensely facilitate both academic and research work at the university,” Dr. Kangara said.

The week-long training was the first to be facilitated by local experts; marking a major milestone for the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK and GSK supported programme.

The delegates join trainers in a commemorative photo

JKUAT’s Prof. Anthony Gachanja will work closely with Prof. Abiy Yenesew, from the University of Nairobi to facilitate the training.

In her goodwill message to the participants, Dr. Aneesa Ahmed of the Royal Society of Chemistry challenged the participants to make the best use of the training and widely share the benefits. She noted that the initiative has benefited over 400 African scientists in the last five years.

“You have been chosen for your experience, dedication, relevance and passion to share the benefits of the training with your respective communities,” Dr. Aneesa said.

JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi who opened the workshop noted that Africa was still facing many challenges whose sustainable solutions heavily relied on science. She lauded the initiative as a great step towards supporting Africa’s industrialization and environmental protection.

“The RSC and JKUAT have signed an agreement to work together in the hosting of the training workshops and enhancement of analytical sciences in this region,” Prof. Ngumi said in a speech delivered by her deputy in charge of Administration, Prof. Bernard Ikua.

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