Dakar, Senegal, 28 November 2017 (ECA) – The fourth Senior Experts Dialogue on Science, Technology and the African Transformation Agenda opened in Dakar Tuesday with Senegal’s Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation, Mary Teuw Niane, calling on Africa to pull its resources together to produce a critical mass of scientists and researchers to help find solutions to problems besetting the continent.
In opening remarks to the meeting being attended by 50 experts from across the continent, Mr. Niane said Africa will continue to lag behind other continents if member States do not unite to address its challenges in higher education, science, technology and innovation sectors collectively.
“We have the same goal and so instead of working separately we should work together to create synergies,” the Minister said.
“Developed countries pull their efforts together to develop higher technologies and in the framework of regional integration, our governments should do the same and put in place African and regional research infrastructure to pull together financial and human resources to create a critical mass of researchers and innovators to solve Africa’s common problems.”
He chronicled what his country is doing to create centers of excellence, building and funding more institutions of higher learning, building a knowledge city and related projects to ensure technological advancements sustain innovation and power economic growth.
“Our centers of excellence must work together as Africa pursues her efforts for better scientific integration. Senegal is ready to contribute and the ECA should play a very important role in helping Africa achieve this scientific integration,” said Mr. Niane.
For his part, Kasirim Nwuke, Chief, New Technologies and Innovation Section in the Economic Commission for Africa's Special Initiatives Division, said the challenge of changing the lives of the African people lay, among others, with its scientists, researchers and policymakers.
He said Africa continued to perform below its peers in technological innovation with her higher education institutions, except for a few South African universities, hard to find among the world’s top 250 universities.
“It will be impossible for Africa to catch up with the rest of the world if it does not address gaps in its innovation policy and improves the efficiency of its innovation system,” said Mr. Nwuke.
“To be successful, an innovation system must bring together business, universities, capital and all stakeholders, including the defense sector, in the economy. Universities in particular and higher education institutions in general are critical in that effort. It is precisely for that reason that this SED is focused on the nexus between higher education and STI, not because we subscribe to the linear model of innovation.”
He said the conditions for re-visiting the nexus were good: there is great awareness, recognition and acceptance of the critical role of knowledge, science, technology and innovation in creating and sustaining the wealth of nations.
“But persisting weaknesses should concern all of us, including policy makers. Current trends do not suggest that there will be any major transformative technologies emerging out of Africa very soon or that our continent will bridge the technological divide with the rest of the world by the Agenda 2063 target date,” Mr. Nwuke said.
“Our governments and firms are not investing significantly in scientific research. Very few of our women and girls are involved in STEM education. And our universities are under stress not only for financial reasons but for reasons of serving as a pressure release valve for millions of young people; pressure release valve because a university education raises a young person’s hopes and aspirations a better future.”
Hence the need for the continent to come up with policies that will help Africa re-organize her higher education sector to promote innovation and economic growth.
Concrete recommendations are expected at the end of the three-day meeting for consideration and adoption by universities and STI institutions, policy makers, regional and continental organizations on how to realign higher education policy with STI and industrial policy to advance Africa’s development and integration.
The dialogue is being held under the theme; “Higher education, science, technology and innovation and African integration and development”.
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