Announcements about nanotechnology programs and plans in the developing world are coming pretty fast now. The latest is a proposal from the executive director of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Mohamed Hassan, that nanotech research groups in developing countries form a collaborative network. Hassan goes on to suggest that Africa be the first focus region for such a network.
South Africa leads the field on the continent. According to its national strategy, from 2005 onwards it will dedicate US$5 million to US$10 million each year to nanotechnology research and development.
In comparison, said Hassan, 2003 figures estimate that China spends US$175 million each year, with a 200 per cent growth rate. And the Brazilian government's 2004 budget for nanotechnology was US$7 million.
Part of the problem is the political instability of many African states, suggested Mike Treder of the US-based Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.
Hassan agreed, adding that although several African governments pour money into science and technology, the brain drain draws their trained researchers out of the region. As a result, they effectively support research and development elsewhere.
South-South collaborative nanotechnology networks. That pretty much sums up what the leapfrog future will look like.