Research Article

Multilevel analysis of the factors and talent-building elements of aspiring African star scientists in their international scientific networks


The existing literature does not sufficiently address the context-specific aspects of talents. In this article, we study the success factors of aspiring African star scientists who outperform other scientists internationally. We focus on 35 fellows of a renowned science excellence programme for African scientists below 43 years. We conducted in-depth interviews and analyzed their profiles. Most of them have attained achievements well beyond established scientists in their home countries and universities abroad. A significant majority narrated that they had built the talents at an early age, often citing the approaches of a few primary and secondary schoolteachers which influenced them. These enabled them to conceive education differently and distinguished them from their peers. A majority pointed to their parents’ educational and professional backgrounds, as well as their motivational roles. This compensated for the deficits in the developing countries’ education systems, raising them as ‘academic elite’. Almost 90% illustrated consistent giftedness but narrated complementary elements at subsequent (postsecondary) levels. One general source of their talents is their motivation to navigate between disciplines beyond their core specializations. These provided multi- and transdisciplinary competences, competitive advantage and dynamism to innovate. A multilevel reinforcement of the factors and context-specific talents could increase the number of African star scientists and possibly also those in other developing countries.

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