|An African Light Source|
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SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Africa is presently the only habitable continent without a synchrotron light source. Dozens of scientists from African countries now perform experiments at facilities in Europe and elsewhere. Although South Africa has become a member of ESRF. the number of users is limited by distance and travel cost. A light source in Africa would enable thousands of African scientists and engineers to gain access to this superb scientific and technological tool. Indeed, in order to be competitive socially, politically and economically in the years to come, access to a nearby synchrotron light source will be an absolute necessity. Momentum is now building for an African light source, as a collaboration involving several sub-Saharan African countries. An interim Steering Committee for an African light source has been formed. SESAME is the example that may be followed. Sesame is now nearing completion in Jordan, as a collaboration of 9 countries in the Middle East (www.sesame.org.jo). UNESCO became the umbrella organization for SESAME at its Executive Board 164th session, May 2002, as it did in the case of CERN in the 1950s. UNESCO’s Executive Board described SESAME as “a quintessential UNESCO project combining capacity building with vital peace-building through science” and “a model project for other regions”. It is likely that UNESCO, if asked, would play a similar role as a facilitator for an African light source.
As is evident from experience around the world, in developing countries as well as technologically advanced countries, access to a nearby synchrotron light source brings many benefits, as follows:
• Conducting world-class basic and applied research
• Training graduate students without sending them abroad
• Attracting scientists conducting research abroad to return
• Addressing regional biomedical and environmental issues/concerns
• Promoting the development of high-tech industry.
Particularly relevant to a light source in Africa is the experience in Brazil, Korea, and Taiwan. After sending scientists to use facilities abroad, light source programs in these countries were funded in the mid 1980’s, when these were developing countries. Since their operation began in the mid 1990’s they have each trained hundreds of graduate students locally, and attracted many mid-career scientists to return home. These three countries have recently approved funding, at about the $300M level, for the construction of new, more advanced, intermediate energy (3 GeV) light sources to better serve their large and growing user communities.