Scientific research is an important tool for economic and social development of any society. This explains why the 6th edition of the Excellence Days of Scientific Research and Innovation, which ended recently in Yaounde, had as theme, “Scientific Research and Innovation: Strategic Tools for Business and Socio-Economic Transformations.” Unfortunately, insufficient availability of funding is a stumbling block. African countries are still struggling to meet the ambitions of the Lagos Plan adopted in 1980, to devote 1 per cent of their GDP to research and development. In late November 2017, the Abidjan Appeal, launched by African scientists and parliamentarians at the 5th African Union-European Union Summit, called again for greater investment in science and technology. On the Wings of Innovation, the AU Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) places science, technology and innovation at the epicentre of Africa’s socio-economic development and growth.
AfDB which is a major development funding body in the continent, relaunched its advocacy at the 3rd edition of its Forum on Science and Technological Innovation held from 10 to 12 February in Cairo, Egypt. The bank has also been instrumental in funding research (development and economic research) in the continent. For example, between 1990 and 1993, AfDB provided 17.298 million dollar (about FCFA 9 billion) to research institutions in Africa and is now more determined to increase support to science, technology and innovation.
In Cameroon like in most African countries, research is relegated to the background with no substantial budget allocated to it. It is common place to find research and innovative results lingering in the drawers or at their prototype state because funding is not readily available. The country’s Ministry in charge of research for example, was allocated only a paltry of FCFA 10.3 billion in 2018 with little over FCFA 3 billion devoted in investment and research activities.
In 2015 for example, the Institute of Agricultural Research, IRAD, allocated FCFA 6.5 billion for research activities out of a total budget of FCFA 12.2 billion during that year. As one research noted, a good research result attracts funding bodies on their own. Meanwhile other researchers hold the view that it is better to fund their research at the initial stage for clarity purposes. Apart from government assistance to researchers through JERSIC, other funding bodies like the African Development Bank, World Bank and bilateral partners finance research initiatives in Cameroon. In 2015, the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation and Cameroon’s Employers Syndicate (GICAM) agreed to work hand-in-glove so that research and innovative projects can be financed but the impact of that accord is yet to be felt. Notwithstanding, a Cameroonian business magnet, PK Fokam launched an award for Science and Technology in 2016 to promote applied research in Africa. However, the impact of these funding initiatives which for now are still inadequate, is difficult to evaluate in terms of the contribution of research and innovation in the economy. The domain of technological innovation is notwithstanding promising with many youths making strides in apps development.