By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja –
A team of experts from different African countries says only technological development holds the key to the much desired transformation in Africa.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the Senior Expert Dialogue (SED) in Abuja with the theme “Science technology and innovation (STI) and the African transformation agenda: Making new technologies work for Africa’s transformation”, the group of experts maintained that Africa would not witness relative economic growth without the strong deployment of STI.
While acknowledging the on-going effort to realise the African leaders’ commitments as expressed in Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, a long-term perspective plan to optimise the use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans, the experts said Africa must grow and sustain its growth using STI.
“African leaders have at various fora and through several actions committed themselves to effect the long-term development and technological transformation of the economies and of the continent. However, failure to embrace STI has been a major challenge to achieving these objectives,” they said.
They contended that Africa might be the third most populated continent with attendant challenges in food security, water and other life support components by 2050, adding Africa might also be faced with the problem of urbanisation which may adversely affect agriculture. The experts counseled that STI must be applied for production of very high yielding crops varieties as a way forward.
Highlighting the role of STI in the achievement of the MDG goals, they observed that STI has not been explicitly taken into account by African countries in the implementation of the MDGs and the post 2015 development agenda as being coordinated by UN.
They posited that the MDGs’ timeline will soon end in 2015 and lamented that no African country has effectively achieved its goals.
They described STI as vital for the success of MDGs and the post development agenda and urged African countries to embark on problem solving research and development (R&D) experiments.
They equally identified Intellectual Property Right (IPR) as playing a key role in the effective deployment of STI as a driver for development, noting that Africa is not featuring prominently in the Innovation Index. They said the World Intellectual Property Right (WIPO) encourages countries to put in place right policies that would enable them use IPs for their development.
The experts called on African countries to produce a critical mass of young scientists and build their capacity to fit into the post MDG agenda through science and technology.
According to them, “this can be achieved when Africans put mechanism in place for effective partnership and knowledge sharing of STI and also when they develop a framework that encourages industry/research and development sponsorship in institutions, while contributing a certain percentage of GDP to research.”
They highlighted the major impediments in STI development in Africa to include low political will, lack of skills, and low financial allocation to S&T.
“Presently African countries have very low funding level of STI, ranging from 0.2 – 0.8 percent,” they added.
They encouraged African countries and governments to provide appropriate funding level of STI up to two percent of their national GDP, improve STEM education, periodically review STI curricula in schools and also encourage women in STI.
Other panel discussion sessions held during the meeting included the ICT and sustainable development; enabling national environment for STI policies; technology, innovations and governance: open government, open government data, and open data; better measurement: R&D data for decision making; urbanization – enhancing the efficiency of African cities as centres of innovation; and youth and innovation – realizing the African transformation agenda.