Experts call for more investment in research infrastructure

Addis Ababa, 6 October 2017 (ECA) – The expert group meeting on ‘building research infrastructure capacity in Africa to achieve the sustainable development goals’ ended in Addis Ababa today with participants agreeing that governments on the continent have no choice but to up expenditures on research infrastructures if Africa is to find solutions to its challenges.

Expert after expert gave examples of how science, technology and innovation could be used effectively if the continent invested enough in top class research institutions which will in turn come up with results that will help Africa attain sustainable development.

In his closing remarks to the meeting, Kasirim Nwuke, Chief of New Technologies and Innovation in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Special Initiatives Division, said; “The failure of our governments to allocate significant resources to STI institutions to procure research infrastructures is detrimental to our continent’s scientific and technological development without which innovation will be limited.”

He said most institutions on the continent were struggling to keep their laboratories going with funding cuts in many countries making it tough for them to buy new equipment.

“Across the continent, many research centres and universities are owing enormous sums in unpaid bills. The depreciation of national currencies has hiked the domestic price of imports, including supplies such as reagents and equipment.  Foreign conference travels have been cancelled. And fees are owed to international science organizations, fettering opportunities for collaboration,” Mr. Nwuke said.

Participants lamented throughout the meeting that in most of their countries, scientists were subsidizing research centres with their own money with many African scientists currently doing wonders in the West where top notch facilities are in place. 

“There is brain drain and very little brain circulation because of the inadequacy of research infrastructures,” Mr. Nwuke said in summing up the meeting.

“Our task to make our policy makers match their words with action and resources remains enormous. We cannot build research infrastructures capacity without resources.  Cooperation and collaboration require real expenditures – of financial resources and of time and they cannot replace national efforts.”

He encouraged the experts to continue to share their experiences and knowledge when they returned home.

“There is a lot of learning to do. And there is a lot of policies to be put in place to build research infrastructures capacity and capability in Africa.  We thank you for the ideas and recommendations and assure you that we will build on them and advocate for them,” said Mr. Nwuke.

He added: “Africa, this meeting has shown, has to maintain and build research infrastructure capacity as an undergird condition for meeting the targets of the SDGs and realizing the objectives of African Union’s Agenda 2063. Africa cannot depend on research done elsewhere. Such an approach is not sustainable in the long run.”

Following this meeting, a report with recommendations and information from the discussions will be produced to feed into national policy processes. The outcomes will also be presented at the AU STC that will be held in Cairo, Egypt, later this month. 

Meanwhile, the Senior Experts Dialogue on Science, Technology and Innovation and the African Transformation Agenda (SED) on the theme “Higher Education, STI in support of the African integration and development agenda” will be held in Dakar, Senegal, in November. 

SED, now in its 4th year, is a collaborative activity with the African Union. This year, it will be hosted by the Ministry of Scientific Research of the Republic of Senegal.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826