Young Scientists

Alpha Keita: "Returning to Africa was not really a choice"

Returning to Africa after a PhD can be the result of chance. Alpha Keita, was in Senegal when the Ebola crisis began in Guinea, his home country. His university and institute send him on the field.

Who are you?

My name is Alpha Keita, I am a physician by training, and I have a PhD in microbiology from the university of Marseille. Currently I am a scientist at the university of Montpellier and I work in the VIH research unit at the Institute of Research for Development of Montpellier.

Why did you go to Europe for your PhD?

After my medical studies in Guinea, I wanted to be a scientist. More precisely, an infectious diseases microbiology scientist. It is something I could not do at home because the curriculum did not exist in my university. So, the only way was to go abroad, in a country where I could obtain my diploma and do the job I always dreamed of. Choosing France was kind of obvious as I am francophone. It is one of the reasons I chose France for my PhD.

Why did you choose to come back in Africa after your PhD?

It was not really a choice. I went to Senegal for my first post-doc. While I was there, the Ebola crisis began in Guinea. Then, I worked in a team developing projects about Ebola. Thanks to that, I often return to Guinea. It is only professional, not a personal choice.

What difficulties did you experienced?

It is not easy of course. We can even say it is really difficult because developping research, especially in the Guinean context, is a real challenge. It is not the kind of place where you can sit and say: "I have this amount of money, or a funding from the country for a project". The research is funded by foreign organisations. So, things can only work if there is a support. Would it work without this? I would personally say no. Without the support, it would be very difficult to do the work I do in Guinea.

What would you tell to young African PhD candidates who want to return to Africa?

I would say: "Go for it". Everybody will tell you nowadays: we won't reinvent the wheel. But in the future, things will happen is Africa. And you have to be here right now to take part in the emergence of Africa. And also, to tell politicians to help us developping our research activity in a long-term and efficiently.

Interview by Anthony Audureau

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