By Mekonnen Teshome

The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) has called on African leaders to work towards the free movement of African scientists in order to achieve African Union (AU) agenda 2063.

Prof. Felix Dapare Dakora,President of African Academy of Sciences (AAS)

“We cannot collaborate to do research to achieve the AU agenda 2063, if there is no free movement of scientist across the board between the various African countries,” said Prof. Felix Dapare Dakora, President of AAS in the opening of the 11th General Assembly of the Academy in South Africa.

Prof. Dakora pointed out that free movement of African scientists is one of the agendas of the General Assembly. “As we speak, for example, there are a number of our colleagues who couldn’t come to South Africa for this meeting,” he said.

 “Therefore, we remain concerned as an academic society about the difficulties of scientists to move from one country to the other and we want to put it in the agenda of the Science Forum South Africa 2018 (SFSA) and get it across to our leaders,” he added.

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane ,South African Minister of Science & Technology

While opening the AAS General Assembly, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, South African Minister of Science & Technology, promised to assist in tackling the challenges of African scientists and to work in collaboration with AAS to help the South African government design the right policy to promote science and innovation.

“Delivering scientific advice for policy-making to ensure our continent responds effectively to the Sustainable Development Goals by implementing pan-African research and innovation funding programmes are some of the critical roles the AAS should play – and ones in which we are determined to support the Academy,” she said.

AU’s long-term agenda includes visa-free travel for all African citizens as a means of facilitating trade and regional cooperation. A common African passport, scheduled to roll out by 2020, is expected to boost trade and investment.

The idea of an African passport dates back a quarter of a century ago but has failed to catch on with countries that fear an increase in smuggling, illegal immigration, terrorism, and the spread of diseases as well as a negative impact on local job markets.

Panelists during the AAS sessions also discussed the policy challenges of African counties with regard to the promotion of science and innovation. They have also recommended African leaders to use scientific knowledge to design effective policies.

Prof. Vladimir Sucha, Director General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission’s Science and Knowledge Service, in his presentation “Science for Policy” underlined the vitality of scientific andevidence-informed policymaking for Africa.

Prof. Vladimir said, “science and politics have fundamentally different goals – the aim of science is to know and the goal of politics is to act.”  However, he noted that both need to complement each other and more so, policy makers need to be evidence-informed and engage scientists.

The 11th AAS General Assembly, from 10-11 December 2018, was held in collaboration with South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and focused on creating a platform for scientists, policymakers and the private sector to ignite conversations on how to mobilize support for science, technology and innovation (STI) that yields commitments to build long-term capacity for infrastructure and human resources.