By Gift Briton

For Africa to move forward with its digital and economic growth agenda, its research and development should be strengthened to global standards. However, Africa’s low investment in science is worrying, with scientists encouraging countries to use their diaspora population to support this agenda.

“Africa has less infrastructure and investments than other continents. Our environment limits our implementation capacities and it is our diaspora that can save us. They can help to mitigate the shortness of investment and enrich human capital in the continent,” Prof. Nkem Khumbuh, Programme Manager –Science Technology and Innovation, Policy Governance and Partnerships at the African Academy of Sciences said during the 3rd East Africa Community (EAC) Regional Science Technology & Innovation Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to Prof. Khumbuh, the education system in Africa is not competent enough, noting that “it does not give skills as high levels as the ones abroad.” However, Africa has approximately 170 million people in the diaspora, several of whom have global competencies that can be leveraged to integrate the continent’s education into global systems.

He also observed that the diaspora has rich networks and capital which they can bring along to build infrastructure, nurture the next generation of scientists, and teach differently.

Prof. Khumbuh cautioned that Africa cannot develop by being just mere consumers of digital technologies without being productive and encouraged them to learn the science behind each digital technology to enjoy their full benefits to otherwise the continent will forever remain on the sidelines.

“If we have to go far with digital, we must know the science behind it. We must know the science that produces digital and know that science involves research and development. If you do not understand the foundational scientific tools, then you will not understand digital very well. You can use it but you will never be able to recreate or innovate from it because you do not have the foundational knowledge that created it. Research and development is the future of digital and countries must focus on getting our universities to produce top scientists so that they can recreate, master, innovate, and play around with the digital,” Prof. Khumbuh posits.

He adds: “We have the requisite assets, including minerals, gas, human capital and many more, we only need to monetize correctly with the right policies in place. Leaders must make the right investments, recognize pertinent issues, and have the will to pursue them. We need to recognize the need for research and development and the will to do it. Research and development is not only the purview of the government; governments just lead the process because they provide the atmosphere and are not based on investments and returns. But the private sector can come in support the government.”