Strengthening Regional Collaboration on STI, Education & Research Networks in Africa

Scientific Research and Technology are expected to play a huge role in development and industrialization in the coming years. They are strategic to Africa’s industrialization and can enable the continent to leapfrog to the fourth industrial revolution.

Strengthening regional collaboration on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) education and research networks was the subject of a panel discussion held on Sunday, 11 February 2018 at the Third Africa STI forum held in Cairo.

Africa has several distinguished research centers and regional specialized facilities funded by a number of countries. These are centers of excellence designed to provide scientific and innovative solutions to development challenges in Africa.

However, scientific research requires adequate financial resources and infrastructure to ensure effective results. Dr. Kasirim Nwuke, head of New Technologies and Innovation at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, believes that in order for countries to achieve integration, they need to start by assessing the competitiveness condition in member states and address policy issues.

Dr. Boubakar Barry, Director General, West and Central Africa Research and Education Network, says that it fundamental for research centers in the continent to stay connected among themselves and continue to have access to research results achieved in different regions. In modern times, ICT facilitates the achievement of this goal.

Prof. Nelson Torto, Executive Director, African Academy for Science, said that the Academy plays an advocacy role in the continent, in addition to honoring scientific achievement. It was founded by a group of the highly distinguished scientists in Africa and funded by a number of countries as well as grants from different global bodies. The Academy has 400 Fellows, one- third of them females.

The World Bank is supporting these efforts through a center of excellence established within the frame of a regional initiative. “The center aims at meeting labor market demands, and providing scientific solutions for development challenges” says Dr. Javier Botero Alvarez, Lead Education Specialist, Education Global Practice, World Bank. This goal will be achieved through strengthening the capacity of universities in a number of countries competitively selected. The center is covering ten priority sectors and includes sixteen countries. The initiative is expected to have a positive impact on industry, improve the skills STEM asset and strengthen national TVET system.

On the other hand, Africa Capacity Report, a flagship of the African Capacity Building Foundation, indicates that more than 70% of African countries find STI fundamental for achieving any development. However, none of them is investing the agreed 1% of GDP to finance scientific research. Unfortunately, the current efforts in this field are scattered and research centers are working in silos. Without coordination, unification of technical platform, mapping out capacities and exchanging knowledge and experience, it will be difficult for Africa to hit the expected target of capacity development. The African Union Development Agenda 2063 drew a road map to achieve this target through policies, skills development and research. Unless African countries dedicate resources and coordinate among themselves to achieve this goal, it will be difficult to hit the industrialization target. With these words, Dr.Thomas Munthali, Director for knowledge and learning, African Capacity Building Foundation, concluded the session, in the hope that the next forum will witness significant achievements in this field.

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