Nearly 100 scientists gathered in November at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, for the first conference on realizing an African light source. The delegates came from 13 countries in Africa and 15 in the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Three things emerged from the grassroots effort: A statement that spells out why Africa needs a light source, a roadmap that sets a path for building one, and a steering committee to drive the process.

A light source can be expected to contribute significantly to the return of the African science diaspora, the training of young scientists, the growth of competitive industries, and the advancement of research to address concerns relevant on the continent, according to the conference’s “Grenoble Resolutions.”

“Nothing besides conventional lasers and computers has revolutionized science like light sources,” says Sekazi Mtingwa, a retired MIT physicist and member of the steering committee. “Countries around the...

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