Crystallography in Africa

The African Crystallographic Association


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Mission of AfCA

The mission of the African Crystallographic Association is to contribute to the advancement of science on the African continent via crystallography in all its aspects, including related topics concerning the structure and related properties of non-crystalline states, and to promote African cooperation in crystallography.


Strategic vision of AfCA

The AfCA plans to realize its mission via the following actions:

  1. Create a network of African crystallographers and assist in creating a database listing African crystallographers, and ensure the registration of African Crystallographers in the IUCr World Directory of Crystallographers (WDC);
  2. Facilitate the establishment of National Associations of Crystallography in African countries, or groups of local crystallographers on the continent, and support the activities of the existing associations;
  3. Support the application of AfCA to become a regional member of IUCr;
  4. Organize the Pan African Conference on Crystallography (PCCr) every two years to enable interaction, discussion and sharing of results in the community;
  5. Establish a public awareness and engagement program that will create fact-based understanding of crystallography through awareness, dialogue and education in the region;
  6. Support training activities: OpenLabs, Pan African Crystallography Schools, crystal growth competitions and so on, on the African continent;
  7. Assist in the promotion of crystallography and science in education programs;
  8. Help to acquire diffraction equipment for crystallographers firstly in one country in each of the five regions of the continent (Central Africa, West Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa) to allow research activity in crystallography and balanced partnership collaboration across Africa and beyond; and ultimately in all the countries of Africa;
  9. Assist in providing the very poorest countries with minimal infrastructure and materials for research such as powerful computers for data analysis and servers;
  10. Encourage the mobility of researchers within the region for experiments; promote joint research projects across Africa;
  11. Leverage national bodies, institutions and international funding agencies for financial support;
  12. Facilitate (with the involvement of IUCr and UNESCO and the African governments) the establishment of an African IUCr Cooperation Fund to support the above actions;
  13. Lobby for the introduction of a scientific visa to ensure mobility of researchers between African nations, thus allowing for exchange and collaboration between African countries and the sharing of scientific resources and expertise to address common developmental targets, for the benefit of all. This scientific visa should be free of charge, be valid for at least a year, and should be issued quickly once certified by appropriate higher education and research bodies.

Milestones towards the formation of AfCA

Since the launch of the Crystallography in Africa initiative in 1999, the IUCr has put enormous effort into developing opportunities for education and research and building capacity in crystallography in the African continent.

The idea of forming an African Crystallographic Association (AfCA) was discussed for the first time at the IYCr2014 Summit meeting in Bloemfontein (South Africa). Andreas Roodt was nominated chair of the Steering Committee for the formation of AfCA. The Committee included representatives from 18 African countries. One of its achievements was the € 30K grant awarded by the International Council for Science, ICSU (now International Science Council, ISC) to the "Building Science Capacity in Africa via Crystallography" project, chaired by Andreas Roodt and Michele Zema (IUCr Executive Outreach Officer). This led to the 1st Pan African Conference on Crystallography, PCCr1, held in Dschang (Cameroon) in 2016 and chaired by Ignas Tonle and Jean Ngoune, with Claude Lecomte as Chair of the Scientific Committee.

The IUCr2017 Congress held in Hyderabad, India represented an important milestone for AfCA. A session on "Crystallography in emerging nations: projects for a sustainable development of education and research infrastructure in Africa" (Chairs: Michele Zema and Claude Lecomte) was held as part of the parallel programme of the Congress. A meeting of the AfCA Steering Committee followed. Strategic regions were identified and representatives nominated. At the same time, planning started for the 2nd Pan African Conference on Crystallography, PCCr2, which was held in Accra (Ghana) in 2019, under the guidance of Robert Kingsford-Adaboh and David Dodoo-Arhin, as chairs of the Organizing Committee, and Gilberto Artioli, chair of the Scientific Committee. The conference was held jointly with the 2nd African Light Source Conference.

During PCCr2, Delia Haynes was nominated chair of the AfCA Steering Committee and new members were nominated. Among the first activities of the new Steering Committee were the launch of the AfCA facebook page, and the bid to choose the venue of the 3rd Pan African Conference on Crystallography. Nairobi (Kenya) was selected, and George Amolo, Chair of PCCr3, invited the whole crystallographic community from Africa and the rest of the world to the Multimedia University of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya on 18-23 January 2021.

Because of the pandemic, PCCr3 was postponed and an ePCCr online conference was instead organised. This conference was organised jointly with the African Light Source and the African Physical Society. The AfLS/ePCCr/AfPS conference was held on 15-20 November 2021. On Wednesday, November 17th, the African Crystallographic Association was officially launched. The first AfCA General Assembly meeting was held and the first Executive Committee elected. 

AfCA Executive Committee

The first Executive Committee of the African Crystallographic Association was elected on 17 November 2021 during the AfLS/ePCCr/AfPS conference hosted online by the X-TechLab.

[AfCA Executive Committee]


AfCA Steering Committee

The AfCA Steering Committee (AfCA-SC) was launched in October 2016 in Dschang (Cameroon) during the First Pan African Conference on Crystallography (PCCr1) with the main objective of creating the African Crystallographic Association. It has been in place until November 2021, when the AfCA was officially launched during the AfLS/ePCCr/AfPS conference hosted online by the X-TechLab. 

[AfCA Steering Committee]

The AfCA Steering Committee at the PCCr2 in 2018. Front row: Delia Haynes (South Africa), Chair; Patrice Kenfack (Cameroon), Secretary; Adam Bouraima (Gabon); Marielle Agbahoungbata (Benin). Back row: Seham Kamal (Egypt); Claude Lecomte (France), ex-officio member; Alessia Bacchi (Italy), ex-officio member; Rim Benali-Cherif (Algeria); Michele Zema (Italy), ex-officio member. (Photographs courtesy of Rim Benali-Cherif)

For efficiency, the committee has divided the continent into five (5) regions. Each region has one committee member which is responsible for the activities of the AfCA-SC in his/her region. These representatives, together with a secretary and a chair, function as an Executive Committee of the AfCA-SC. Three other persons with significant experience in the running of crystallographic associations are ex-officio members of the Executive Committee of the AfCA-SC. Table 1 presents the names, affiliations and email address of the current ten members of the Executive Committee of the Africa Crystallographic Association Steering Committee (AfCA-SC). Each member of the AfCA-SC Executive Committee supervises the activities of the committee in one of the five regions. Table 2 presents a list of countries with the name of the corresponding committee member of the Executive Committee of the AfCA-SC. This Committee has developed a vision and mission for AfCA. 

Name(s) and Surname(s) Country Function in the EC AfCA-SC No. of votes
1 Delia Haynes South Africa Chair of the Committee 1
2 Patrice Kenfack Tsobnang Cameroon Secretary of the Committee 1
3 Rim Benali-Cherif Algeria Representative for region 1 1
4 Seham Kamal Egypt Representative for region 2 1
5 Marielle Yasmine Agbahoungbata Benin Representative for region 3 1
6 Albert Lundemba
Adam Bouraima
Democratic Republic of Congo
Representative for region 4 1
7 Gift Mehlana Zimbabwe Representative for region 5 1
8 Alessia Bacchi Italy Ex-officio Member 0
9 Claude Lecomte France Ex-officio Member 0
10 Michele Zema Italy Ex-officio Member 0


[AfCA Steering Committee]



Region AfCA-SC Member List of Countries
1 Rim Benali-Cherif Algeria; Libya; Mauritania; Morocco; Mali; Senegal; Tunisia; Western Sahara
2 Seham Kamal Burundi; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Rwanda; Somalia; Republic of South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania; Uganda
3 Marielle Yasmine Agbahoungbata Benin; Burkina Faso; The Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea Bissau; Ivory Coast; Liberia; Niger; Sierra Leone; Togo
4 Albert Albertlundemba  and Adam Bouraima Angola; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Democratic Republic of Congo; Gabon; Equatorial Guinea; Nigeria
5 Gift Mehlana Botswana; Lesotho; Madagascar; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Swaziland; Zambia; Zimbabwe


The development of science and technology in Africa is the main way to foster the progress of the continent. Most countries in Africa depend on sources of income such as agriculture and mining, without modern technology. The continent holds 54 countries with many different languages, and 36% of people live on less than US$1 per day. As crystallography underpins many sciences, advances in economic and health systems, education and infrastructure, it could be a vehicle for the durable improvement of African economy and society. Indeed, crystallography is essential for the development and improvement of almost all materials and medicines. It forms the backbone of a wide range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, agri-foodstuffs, aeronautics, computing, mining and space sciences. To demonstrate the importance of crystallography, and that this science is accessible and can be performed in all countries without sophisticated infrastructure, the United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014). This was done under the initiative of the International Union of Crystallography and spearheaded by the Moroccan Crystallographic Association, one of the few African Crystallographic Associations. One main activity during the celebration of this IYCr2014 was the Pan African Summit meeting held from October 15 to 17th 2014 at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. The summit was organized with the view of shining the spotlight on crystallography in the world and in Africa in particular. The main conclusions were that due to the lack of convenient facilities on the continent, crystallography is not well developed and studied in most of Africa. The researchers working in the field are not connected and do not interact enough; teaching activities are then quite rare and many competencies are lost. The small number of African National Adhering Bodies in the International Union of Crystallography to date and the low number of structures deposited by African researchers in the Cambridge Structural Database are some illustrations of this situation.

To address these issues, the President of the IUCr, the Director of Science Policy and Capacity Building Division in UNESCO, the President of the European Crystallographic Association (ECA), the Commissioner of Human Resources, Science and Technology: Africa Union and some African Government Ministries of Science and Technology, Higher Education, Scientific research and Education, requested through a letter that the IUCr, UNESCO and the governments of African Countries via the African Union and the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU; now ISC) initiate and support actions to promote regional scientific collaboration in crystallography. The actions which were included in this letter have been revised by the African Crystallographic Association Steering Committee (AfCA-SC) to develop a strategic vision for the African Crystallographic Association. The closing ceremony of the IYCr2014, held in Morocco in April 2015, incorporated a conference on the theme of 'Crystallography for the next generation'. At this event the President of the IUCr, the Director of the Science Policy and Capacity Building Division of UNESCO, the President of the World Academy of Science and the Director of the International Council for Science-Regional Office for Africa signed a letter of commitment which included resolutions to build capacity in crystallography in the developing world.

3rd Pan African Conference on Crystallography, PCCr3

‘Harnessing Crystallography For Africa’s Research And Technology Transformation’ 


Multimedia University of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
18-23 January 2021 POSTPONED to 17-22 January 2023

Due to ongoing concerns around the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, resulting in travel restrictions being put in place in many countries including Kenya, the Programme and Organising Committees of PCCr3 have taken the difficult decision to postpone this conference, which was originally scheduled in January 2021.


Crystallography is the cornerstone of Chemistry, Physics, Material Science and Engineering. Africa’s economic growth depends on its harnessing and exploiting its mineral resources. The purpose of the conference is to stimulate economic growth in Africa by building synergy between Funding agencies, Industry and Academia through exploitation crystallography to enhance research and innovation. 

Organizing Committee

Chair: George Amolo
Members: Dickson Andala (Secretary), Victor Odari (Vice Secretary), Samuel Lutta, Erick Masika, Zipporah Muthui, George Manyali, Erick Njogu, Renee Munayi, Leah Nyangasi, Robert Kingsford Adaboh, Patrice Kenfack Tsobnang

International Programme Committee

Chairs: Susan Bourne (South Africa), Delia Haynes (South Africa)
Members: Martin Onani (South Africa), Samuel Chigome (Botswana), Birhanu Dejene (South Africa), Samuel Pare (Burkina Faso), David Dodoo-Arhin (Ghana)

Plenary Speakers

Len Barbour (South Africa), Emmanuel Nji (BioStruct-Africa), Elspeth Garman (UK), Michele Zema (Italy) 

Previous PCCr editions

PCCr1, Cameroon, 2016

Crystallography for sustainable development in Africa
University of Dschang, Cameroon, 6-11 October 2016

The 1st Pan African Conference on Crystallography (PCCr1) was organized by the Cameroon Crystallography Association and the University of Dschang under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education of Cameroon.

PCCr2/AfLS2, Ghana, 2018

"Crystallography, a tool for sustainable development in Africa"
University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana, 28 January - 2 February 2019

The IUCr together with the University of Ghana organised the 2nd edition of the Pan African Conference on Crystallography as a joint meeting with the 2nd African Light Source (AfLS) Conference at the Bank of Ghana Conference Hall, University of Ghana.

AfLS/e-PCCr/AfPS, online, 2021

"Big Science and Big Goals for Africa"
Hosted online by the X-TechLab (Benin), 15-20 November 2021

Joint virtual meeting of the African Light Source (AfLS), the Pan African Conference on Crystallography (ePCCr), and the African Physical Society (AfPS)


Patrice Kenfack (