An ambitious African-science project is getting into its stride

Apr 05, 2018

AFRICA is home to what may be the world’s oldest counting tools. The Ishango bone from the Democratic Republic of Congo (both sides of which are pictured above) and the Lebombo bone from South Africa date from 20,000 years and 43,000 years ago respectively. Both are baboon fibulae that have been notched by human hand. Some archaeologists think they were used as tally sticks.

These artefacts were cited last week at a gathering of the Next Einstein Forum, held in Kigali, Rwanda, as examples of Africa’s historical role in developing mathematics. The forum seeks to promote both science in Africa and African scientists. Its meeting in Kigali was the largest general scientific gathering ever held in Africa. Nearly 1,600 people attended.

The forum exists because, regardless of how things stood in the upper Palaeolithic, in modern times Africa lags behind other continents in world-class scientific research. According to a report by the World Bank and Elsevier, a scientific- and medical-...

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