Investing in research and development by African countries will deliver sustainable industrialization and economic diversification on the continent. This will enable the continent to harness technology for a green, inclusive, and resilient Africa.
Antonio Pedro, Acting Executive Secretary Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said during the opening of the Fifth African Science, Technology and Innovation Forum 2023, a side event ahead of the upcoming ninth Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) in Niamey, Niger.
The theme of this year’s Forum is “Accelerating development and diffusion of emerging technologies”.
“To build on the innovative spirit, we need to strengthen the enabling environment through informed policies, increase investment in research and development, and harness the support of the private sector more effectively,” noted the ECA executive secretary, adding that Africa should be at the forefront of a green transformation to accelerate growth, diversify economies and deliver on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063.
“One key opportunity for us lies in the renewable energy market. The value in this market in 2020 was estimated at $881.7 billion and is projected to reach $1,977.6 billion by 2030,” Pedro said.
He said that ECA and its partners have completed the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Design and Implementation Guide, which countries can use irrespective of the policy implementation cycle.
Habi Mahamadou, Niger’s Minister for Secondary and Higher Education, Research and Technology, said STI is a cross-cutting theme that depends on the policy framework, education and infrastructure.
“The biggest challenge of STI in Africa is the lack of human and technology capacity. Countries need to strengthen their capacity in the field of science, technology and innovation,” said Mahamadou.
He said that even though STI is key in the achievement of Africa’s development agenda 2063 and SDG agenda 2030, African governments are still lagging behind in their commitment to STI. STI, he said, can only be accelerated by human capital infrastructure development.
Jean-Paul Adam, ECA Director for Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management, said Science and technology are the catalysts of innovation. It is therefore important for countries to upscale what they are already doing in science and technology in the context of Africa.
“We must have human capital development linked to the diaspora to transform innovation in Africa and leverage the opportunity provided by AfCFTA,” said the ECA Director.
“African governments must have clear policies on science and technology, give tax incentives, and have measurable objectives in the development plan for effective transition from a consumer Africa to producer Africa.”
Dimitri Sanga, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa said to have open science in Africa, there is a need to promote open access to publications and to scientific data, to have transparency of peer review, and participatory science.
“UNESCO has developed the recommendation on open science. This recommendation was adopted by Member States in 2021 and we are currently working with Member States for its implementation,” she said.
“I am optimistic about the results of our work, which should contribute fully to enable Africa to be a resilient, green and prosperous continent.”
The African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mohamed Belhocine said to address the challenges women face in education, AUC has a development plan for women’s education to encourage more girls to undertake STEM education.
“The Heads of state have agreed to adopt the theme of education as the theme for the 2024 AU summit,” he said.
Belhocine noted that digital skills, science, and technology are important to build digital transformation in Africa.
The results of this side event will feed into the work of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development that will begin on 28th February to 3rd March in Niamey, Niger.