Champions of Science – Africa Storytelling Challenge YASE Edition

COS Africa

J&J @ the Young African Scientists in Europe conference: Tell us your story. We’d like to tell the world.

Where will the world’s next wave of new science and innovation come from? Africa, of course.

With its population of 1.5 billion – some 35% of them millennials – and a wealth of new initiatives in progress to boost science skills, Africa is set to bring a new wave of science and innovation discoveries to the world.

Africa’s growing potential as a science and technology player was discussed at inaugural YASE, a conference dedicated to Young African Scientists in Europe, held adjacent to the 2018 EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in Toulouse this week. YASE brought together policy makers and senior researchers with more than 200 African doctoral and post-doc scientists from 25 African countries who study or work across Europe.

The J&J Innovation team was at YASE to listen, learn from African counterparts and share a vision of how young scientists from Africa can become a driving force for innovation. Seema Kumar, J&J’s Vice President for Innovation, Global Health and Science Policy Communication, spoke as part of a plenary panel on the visions for science in Africa, which explored the career possibilities for young African researchers who will return to Africa after their doctoral or post-doctoral studies. Frederik Wittock, EMEA Leader, J&J Innovation Science Activation Communications, represented Johnson & Johnson during a panel exploring the opportunities for young African scientists at private companies.

J&J also launched the J&J Champions of Science – Africa Storytelling Challenge YASE Edition, aimed at boosting the visibility of the continent’s young science talent.  The Challenge which offers a $1,000 prize, welcomes contributions from all of the YASE attendees. Entrants can write a 250 to 500-word story or create a two-to-three minute video to share what inspired or motivated them to become a scientist; what societal challenge they hope to address through their scientific work; and why telling stories of science and engaging the public in understanding and supporting scientific innovation is important.  All valid submissions are to be published in the Champions of Science compendium on

Storytelling is an age-old African tradition. It’s also a critical link in translating innovation into products, and often missing in the tech discovery pathway. When introducing the Challenge, Seema stressed that effective communication adds a lot of value to science: ‘’With the Storytelling Challenge, we encourage young scientists across Africa to share their best work. It asks: what are you working on today, why does it excite you, and what’s your vision of how your novel idea can improve the lives of people in Africa and around the world?’’

Africa is home to a wealth of science activities. Many researchers and entrepreneurs are developing solutions that benefit their communities, and a wider public. But many of these achievements are unrecognized. The Africa Storytelling Challenge hopes to change this. By showcasing the talents of young African innovators, the Challenge aims to increase public engagement and support for science, while inspiring tomorrow’s generation of students to get into science – to help drive Africa’s socio-economic transformation.

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