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Francophone Africa faces triple penalty


The Lancet has published an article by 2017 Tutu Fellow Yap Boum titled: Burden of disease in francophone Africa 1990–2017: the triple penalty? Yap co-authored the article with Yvonne Mburu. He looks into the triple penalty of disease burden faced by francophone African countries and unpacks why this is the case.

He outlines what this triple penalty is. The first is that francophone countries bear the highest burden of diseases in Africa; the second is that, despite carrying the highest burden of disease, francophone countries receive the lowest amounts of medical research funds globally. The third is linked to the inequalities arising from the dominance of the English language in global health.

Within recent years, multiple francophone countries in Africa have become epicenters for major infectious disease outbreaks. By reflecting on differences between anglophone and francophone regions, Yap believes that this can provide some guidance towards attracting the necessary attention to francophone countries.

He breaks out critical facts relating to the penalties francophone countries incur, such as the poor ratio between their burden of disease versus funding. While other African countries range from 3:1 to 16:1; francophone countries average 29:1.

But perhaps the biggest barrier is that of language.  He makes the case that because English is the de-facto language of science, most funding opportunities and scientific papers are published in English. For the majority of non-English-speaking researchers, this situation is a real impediment to accessing these opportunities and even when they manage to perform crucial research that could impact the burden of disease in their countries, francophone researchers struggle to publish as first or senior authors because of this language barrier. They are therefore not telling their own story.  He argues that a more equitable publication system would make a parallel full version of research published in English available in French.

The full article, which was published on 1 March 2020, can be found at The Lancet Global Health

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