Strengthening our capacity to deliver change: Alliance for Science signs MoU with FSD Zambia

Dr Sheila Ochugboju

May 28, 2024

It is my great pleasure and honor to be here today to commemorate the signing of our Memorandum of Understanding between the Alliance for Science and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Zambia.

It’s a great day for us. This is a milestone event in our organization’s journey. When I was thinking about what to say today, I remembered a song I heard on a radio station in my village in Nigeria when I was five. Firstly, kindly note that this was the early 1970s, in a small African village, so to hear a radio then was a very big deal. My older cousin Matthew Nyiam, my guardian then, held it as my parents had traveled abroad on scholarship to the UK and Russia.

So, I was living with relatives. I remember the day with perfect clarity, watching him walk towards me……and the song Lean on Me by Bill Withers was playing on the radio.” You know the words, of course…

Lean on me when you’re not strong,/ And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on…/For it won’t be long

Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on/ Please swallow your pride

If I have things you need to borrow/ For no one can fill/ Those of your needs that you won’t let show

That’s the theme of this event today. It’s about the Alliance for Science leaning on FSD Zambia to help us build our capacity to stand firm as an independent organization, putting in place financial and corporate governance systems that will help us deliver on our mandate to usher in “a future where science and innovation are shared and supported to help bring about a world without poverty, where people everywhere can flourish on an ecologically protected and restored planet.”

Alliance for Science-FSD MoU signing in Zambia. Dr Sheila speech
Dr Sheila Ochugboju, Executive Director, the Alliance for Science. [AfS]

We’re a Global Science Communications organization that seeks to build an alliance of science advocates applying frontier biotechnologies to global challenges. We’re also ten years old this year, but in many ways, despite having over 40 team members in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the USA, and Europe, over 130 trained Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows, and thousands of Science Allies in academic and research institutions around the world, we’re still very young in terms of our institutional capacity.

Daring to become independent

We were an initiative based at Cornell University in New York State, America, and then a program based at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) on the Cornell Campus.

Now, after ten years of existence and over 22 million dollars of investment in our activities, we are daring to become independent. Daring to challenge the notion that institutions based on the Global South lack the institutional capacity to manage their own funds or make their own decisions about how to serve their communities.

We are daring to localize our activities and situate our headquarters squarely within a country like Zambia. This illustrates the challenges we are trying to address and holds the key to many solutions we can deploy and replicate across Africa and Asia.

An epidemic of misinformation

Challenges such as climate change — Zambia is currently facing serious drought, which impacts food security and, ultimately, health and nutrition. Zambia is also recovering from a severe cholera outbreak. These challenges are mirrored across the Global South. So, we need to lean on each other and build our resilience together.

In today’s world, all global challenges, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, have a core element that is mediated by science communication. We face an epidemic of misinformation that prevents people from understanding the cause and effect of their challenges, and agents of disinformation actively block people from applying good science to make better choices and achieve the best outcomes.

Support communities across Africa

Alliance for Science-FSD MoU signing. Dr Sheila speech.
Lillian Chilongo-Kangwa, Financial Sector Deepening Zambia, Chief Executive Officer. [AfS]

So today, as we sign this MoU, I am so happy to be leaning on my sister, comrade, and learned colleague, Lillian Chilongo-Kangwa, Financial Sector Deepening Zambia, Chief Executive Officer.

Together, we can do great things and make a contribution to support communities here in Zambia, across Africa, and ultimately across the world. As the ancient mystic and Greek philosopher Pliny the Elder said in Ad 23–79, ‘Semper aliquid novi Africam adferre. Out of Africa, there is always something new.

Thank you for being a witness to this commitment today. Please support us, join us, and allow us to lean on you today so you can lean on us tomorrow when we grow stronger.


Speech by Dr Sheila Ochugboju – Executive Director of the Alliance for Science, on May 28, 2024, at Pamodzi Hotel, in Lusaka, Zambia, during the signing of an MoU between FSD Zambia and the Alliance for Science.