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African Nobel Prize Winners

25 Nobel Laureates have been born in Africa. Of those, 10 have been from South Africa, and another six were born in Egypt. The other countries to have produced a Nobel Laureate are (French) Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, and Nigeria. Scroll down for a full list of winners.

The first person from Africa to win a Nobel Prize was Max Theiler, a South African man who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1951.

Six years later, the famed absurdist philosopher and author Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Camus was French, and so many people assume he was born in France, but he was in fact born, raised, and educated in French Algeria.

Both Theiler and Camus had emigrated out of Africa at the time of their awards, however, making Albert Lutuli the first person to be awarded a Nobel Prize for work completed in Africa. At the time, Lutuli (who was born in Southern Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe) was the President of the African National Congress in South Africa and was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his role leading the non-violent campaign against apartheid.

Like Theiler and Camus, many African Nobel Laureates have emigrated from their countries of birth and spent most of their working careers in Europe or the United States.  As of 2014, not one African Nobel Laureate has been affiliated with an African research institution at the time of their award as determined by the Nobel Prize foundation.

(Those winning awards in Peace and Literature are not typically affiliated with such institutions. Many winners in those fields were residing and working in Africa at the time of their award.)  

These men and women provide a clear example of the much discussed brain drain from Africa. Intellectuals with promising research careers frequently end up living and working at better funded research institutions beyond Africa’s shores.

This is largely a question of economics and the power of institutions’ reputations. Unfortunately, it is hard to compete with names like Harvard

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