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Using Research To Boost African Progress

It can never be said enough. Africa needs to count on her own resources to trigger growth. Such determination can only be possible if a number of factors are put in place. Scientific research, innovation and of course education for the youth, are some of the cornerstones of the drive to ensure that the continent moves forward.

Unfortunately, political leadership has largely failed to deliver on promises to engineer progress and development with conflicts, wars and civil strife taking a toll on the continent’s resources to an extent that industrialisation, science and technological development continue to witness more of lip-service than real support.

Meeting at the Third Africa Science, Technology and Innovation Forum (Africa STIF Forum) in Egypt on 13 February, 2018, participants identified some of the thorny issues that must serve as levers to get Africa on track as far as locally-nurtured progress is concerned. Apart from the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who chaired the opening of the gathering, the President of the African Development Bank, Nigerian-born Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina made a sterling appeal for Africa to rise up to expectations and meet the challenges of economic growth and development. “We are literally in a race against time. In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, with rapid growth in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetic engineering, and big data analytics, it’s clear that Africa needs to do more not to be left behind,” - Akinwumi Adesina insisted. 

Some statistical details presented at the Egypt forum were revealing enough. Africa has about 14 million students in higher education and the figure represents only 6.4 per cent of the global higher education enrollment. Even worse, less than one third of the number is into science and technology, engineering and mathematics - all subjects that have the potential to power the required growth that Africa needs. Dr. Akinwumi pointed out that the African Union’s education strategy clearly laid out the crucial role of science and technology with the goal of “reorienting Africa’s education and training systems to meet the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture African core values and promote sustainable development at the national, sub-regional and continental scale.”  

The youth and, in particular, the girl-child must be at the centre of efforts to ensure that scientific research and innovation in Africa bear palpable fruits. With Africa projected to have a population of 840 million youth by 2050, there is no way such an important segment of the population can be sidelined from any viable initiative on the continent.

Another area of focus, participants noted, should be the promotion of cooperation within national, sub-regional and regional centres of science, technology, and innovation as well as the creation of more regional hubs of excellence and innovation. If there is determination to encourage research mobility, that could trigger development activities across the regions. This will also mean providing the badly needed funding and acceptable environment for researchers to carry out their work and be able to get the results down to the target groups.

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