Organised by SciCom on behalf of the Government of South Africa
- Dublin, 11 – 15 July

Who's watching Africa? A scramble for natural resources


Africa is a continent rich in natural resources such as oil, gold, timber, diamonds, uranium and chrome. It also has the potential to feed itself and to become the bread basket of Europe, amongst others. Research and development coupled with the application of the latest technological advances play a key role in accessing and processing these resources. A sensible exploitation could greatly benefit the peoples of Africa and success stories are to be found. But instead, the scramble for Africa's riches has often led to mismanagement, environmental degradation, and in some instances, to conflict. Neither has the management of Africa's natural resources helped alleviate poverty. A number of important developments are, however, changing the dynamics related to resource management and exploitation in Africa. Chief among these is the determination of a number of African countries to move from a resource-dependent to a knowledge-based economy. Emerging economies such as China and others have also demonstrated a keen interest in partnerships with Africa with recent spectacular and significant investments.


The goal of this proposed symposium is to bring together a group of European and African scientists with expertise in natural resource management and environmental assessments, as well as African knowledge-economy strategies, to help paint an accurate, evidence-based picture of developments in Africa. In this context, particular attention will be paid to the use of earth observation technologies.

The aim is not to look in-depth at the plethora of economic, environmental, and human consequences that arise but to explore a few pertinent issues in a manner that will lead to a better understanding of ongoing and future changes. It is hoped that in the process, participants will help identify shortcomings in our scientific knowledge, provide suggestions on ways ahead, and lead to the creation of sustainable partnerships between European and African networks.


  • The format of the symposia is interactive, more of a panel discussion with some fixed presentations as scientific support. The sessions are designed to be periods of intense debate, with ample sharing of knowledge and weighing-up of alternatives. Participants will be encouraged to think "outside the box" insofar as such an approach can generate new insights into complex questions. The focus will be issue driven with emphasis on reaching firm conclusions and recommendations.
  • Four scientists (two EU and two African) will be commissioned to prepare, for each key question, a paper outlining the opportunities and challenges at hand and identifying the range of associated scientific issues.
  • Following a participant networking event the evening before its opening, the symposium will be structured around four presentations of key findings and recommendations.
  • The symposia will be moderated by Phil Campbell, Editor-in-Chief of the Nature Publishing Group. Phil Campbell will set the scene in the form of a question (issue driven agenda) which the speakers will address in the form of a short, state of the art presentation.
  • The moderator's role is also to encourage debate, taking his lead from the background paper, and to give the perspective of the investigative journalist/general public interest.
  • The end product of the symposium will be the generation of new knowledge and, possibly, new perspectives on scientific questions relevant to Africa. This may feed the research agendas of European and African organisations.