Publication output

Tijssen (2007) showed how Africa’s annual research output – as measured by articles in the Web of Science – was stagnating at that time. More recent studies have shown that the tide has since turned and that the number of African-authored papers have started to increase (AOSTI 2010; Mouton & Boshoff 2010). Updating these reports with our analysis of Africanauthored papers in the Web of Science shows how annual output has been increasing steadily over the past decade: from 15 285 in 2005 to 54 069 in 2016 (Figure below). What is perhaps most striking is that this rate of increase has surpassed the world growth rate over the same period, with the result that Africa’ share of world publication output more than doubled from 1.5% in 2005 to 3.2% in 2016.

Africa world share and number of scientific publications (articles and reviews only): 2005–2016


Publication output by country

Annual article output by country shows the continued dominance of South Africa, followed by strong contributions from Egypt and other Maghreb countries (Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), together with smaller but significant contributions from Nigeria and the three Eastern African countries (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania). The data also show how skewed the distribution of publication production on the African continent is. Thirteen countries that have each contributed 1% or more of total output in the most recent five-year period, account for 89% of all output. Table below lists the number of publications per country for two periods (2005 to 2010 and 2011 to 2015). We also present information on each country’s share of Africa’s total publication output for each time period. The final column indicates by colour whether the country’s share improved (green) from the early to later period; whether it declined (red); or whether it stayed the same (yellow).

Country shares of Africa’s publication production


In order to correct for the size of the countries, we divided the number of publications by the size of the population for each relevant year. We again compare the countries on this normalised indicator, for the same two periods. The comparison between the two time periods, reveals some shifts in the rank of countries according to per capita number of publications (Figure below).


Output per capita publications (2005–2010 and 2010–2015)



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