While conducting scientific research on a continent as diverse as Africa, working with an inclusive sample is imperative. Africa is arguably the most diverse continent in the world, due to its differences in ethnicity, gender, age, beliefs, etc. The Washington Post also concluded that the world’s 20 most diverse countries are all African. This diversity affects the outcomes of scientific research in one way or another.
What is scientific research, and why is it important?
According to National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), scientific research refers to research conducted by applying systematic and constructed scientific methods to obtain, analyse, and interpret data.
Scientific research is important because it does not only help us learn about nature but also solve the most pressing issues, we face every day. From discovering medicines and vaccines to increasing soil fertility and fighting climate change, scientific research plays a big role in keeping our world a habitable one.
As researchers, sometimes choosing a sample that considers the diversity of the people involved can be difficult. Especially when conducting research in remote areas, lack of adequate infrastructures or the willingness of some of the target audience to participate in the research can become a big barrier for researchers.
However, researching with the diversity of the targeted population in mind is worth the effort because it ensures that researchers don’t miss important findings and leads to better solutions, innovations and products. Thus, driving a sustainable Africa’s scientific and socio-economic development.
Usually, scientific research is conducted following a strict yet evolving process based on previously discovered facts to advance knowledge about how to solve a specific problem. It is essential to conduct research that benefits society and one that targets to improve the lives of the target population in the long run.
It is nearly impossible, to conduct research that’s beneficial to society when the sample used does not consider the diversity of the targeted population. Put another way, lack of representation of some of the target population of the research can cause a lot of harm or partially solve the problem.
If the research, for instance, remains biased to a specific demographic such as gender, the outcomes are likely to have major gaps. For instance, the research results may be more favourable for men than women, affecting the development of the continent, and the world at large.
“Society today is looking towards science to tackle the many challenges facing citizens and communities everywhere. Ensuring full participation of African women in research, innovation, and development is the simplest and quickest way to connect research with societal needs and achieve socio-economic wellbeing for all,” Lydie Hakizimana, AIMS CEO.
With the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2-billion-person market, Africa is creating an entirely new development path, harnessing the potential of its resources and people. Conducting research that considers the needs of both men and women is critical to continue building innovative technologies, products, and services that will propel the continent’s development and take it to the global stage.