Nanotechnology, from nanofilters for water purification in Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania to nanocatalysts and nanosensors in Egypt and South Africa, is broadening the scope of current approaches and creating new avenues for meeting many of the development challenges that Africa faces today. It is for this reason that nanotechnology research and development trends and market potential could directly and indirectly contribute to Africa’s development aspirations and its international obligations especially those in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
The global market of nanotechnology-enabled products stood at approximately $1.6 trillion in 2014, up from $850 million in 2012. The rapid expansion of the nanotechnology market is partly driven by increasing investment in research and development, which is creating numerous innovative industrial applications. This is evident in the doubt-digit annual growth in the number of peer-reviewed articles and in the number of nanotechnology patent applications that have been filed in the last decade. Both developed countries (e.g. France and United States) and developing countries (e.g. China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Saudi Arabia) are investing heavily in nanotechnology. Several African countries, including Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa, are also making steady investments in nanotechnology.
Although nanotechnology will impact all aspects of development, its greatest impact is likely to be on Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero hunger); 3 (Health); 7 (Energy); 8 (Economic growth), 9 (Infrastructure and industrialization); 11 (Cities) and 12 (Sustainable consumption and production). It is in these areas that the majority of patents and high-impact technologies are concentrated. However, the impact of nanotechnology on other Goals will be marginal or less direct unless the African continent invests in key nanotechnology applications that are not directly relevant to industry, such as applications that are relevant to water resources, climate change and peace and security.
Egypt is currently the top nanotechnology research country in Africa, while South Africa is the African country which has filed the most patents and established the most nanotechnology companies and institutions. Overall, Africa is lagging behind other continents in terms of nanotechnology research, inventions, standards and the number of companies operating in that area, and few African countries have developed clear national nanotechnology strategies to guide the development of the sector. Africa is at risk of becoming further marginalized in technology development and/or its governance.
The Challenge Call
To encourage nanotechnology research and innovation in Africa, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and its partners is inviting researchers, innovations and firms or teams with unique nanotechnology-based or enable products or research to be showcased between 14 and 18 December 2020. Specifically, the Forum will showcase some of the top technologies and innovations from across Africa and beyond; identify technology and innovation gaps; explore investment and market needs and; business opportunities in the following areas:
The Innovation Challenge is open to all firms, individuals, research centres, innovation hubs, universities and institutes as well as government leaders and agencies and business leaders of all sizes and ages.
Why should you participate?
Besides the opportunities to meet business and government leaders, the top 20 innovations selected \will be profiled on the ECA and partners’ websites; and will be given the opportunity to convince and get the support of governments, investors and potential partners and collaborators. In addition, ECA will financially support the top 5 research and innovation teams.
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