Africa Forum on Science Technology and Innovation Opened


Nairobi, 03 April 2012 (ECA) – A three-day Science Technology and Innovation Forum opened March 31st in Nairobi, Kenya on the theme, “Youth Employment, Human Capital Development and Inclusive Growth”.

The forum seeks to showcase the best proven practical solutions from Africa and around the world in harnessing the potentials of science, technology and innovation for addressing youth employment, training and education for innovation for inclusive growth. It will also deliberate on the way forward for advancing science, technology and innovation, to facilitate interconnections between knowledge, values, socio-economic environments, society and institutions.

In her opening message, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of ICT, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) emphasised the importance that ECA attaches to science, technology and innovation as key drivers for economic transformation of the continent. She said in this regard that ECA has launched a number of Pan-African programmes including the African Innovation Framework, the Science, technology Endowment Fund and the Innovation Prize for Africa; to support innovators in commercialising their inventions. “Africa is the new growth frontier.There is need for African centric innovation systems that drive this progress.” She said.

She underscored that technology is already playing a key role in African countries economic growth. For example in 2009 in countries such as Kenya, Senegal and Tunisia; ICT accounted more than 10% of the GDP. ICT services exports now account from more than 15% of the total goods and service exports in Gambia and Guinea. 

She stressed the importance of nationally-owned programmes and stated that: “investment in innovation is key but it must come from countries national allocated budgets. We need visionary leaders who have a clear sense of dignity, integrity and sovereignty for our development. If we don’t address this it will be to our detriment”.

Ms Opoku-Mensah concluded that Africa’s future is tied to its youth, saying: “University and technical institutes should offer innovation courses and governments should establish clear policies to encourage innovations and entrepreneurship in academic institutions.”

Professor Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences in UNESCO,  in her welcoming statement,  gave an overview of the forum objectives including creating a dialogue platform in Africa by Africans for Africans on the multiple perspectives for science, technology and innovation including indigenous knowledge, potential of youth and local expertise. She explained that the forum will also explore strategy to strengthen science, technology and innovation (STI) system promote clean drinking water, renewable energy, effective health care, jobs and economic development. She concluded by evoking the STI policy work at UNESCO working with Member States and assisting them with their national policy elaborations, review and implementations. She also informed the forum of new engineering programmes aiming at building skills in innovation launched by UNESCO in collaboration with South Africa

Mr  Kamal El Kheshen, Vice President, African Development Bank (AfDB),  in his statement underscored the need to build skills in engineering and mathematics in African countries. He stressed that higher education in mathematics and science must be strengthened if for Africa to become knowledge producers and not just consumers.  He also underscored the urgent need to support private sector development.  He concluded by encouraged the participants to consider the following issues during the debates: “what are we doing and what should we be doing more off and differently to what we do now in order to ensure that  growth is shared and inclusive.”

Professor Jean Pierre Ezin, Commissioner of Human Resource, Science and Technology of the African Union Commission in his remark, said the universal primary education is primordial for growth and that science education should start at early age.  He then expressed his wish that this forum debates concrete concerted actions with a view to the evaluation of the CPA which is now in effect since 2006 and elaborate  a strategy in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) sector up too 2015
Kenyan Minister for Higher Education,Professor Margaret Kamar opened the forum and underscored the potential of science,technology and innovations in accelerating social economic transformation and integration in Africa.
She  said that “Kenya`s vision 2030 blue print recognises science,technology and innovations as building block for economic growth.” and noted inadequate funding to science,technology and innovation in many African states. She  urged African countries to devote at least 1% of the countries` GDP to research as agreed in the landmark resolution passed by Africa Union Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. So far only South Africa has implemented this resolution she noted.
Over 250 scientists, researchers, students, policy- and decision-makers, representatives of regional and international organizations and the private sector from African countries and other regions, were in attendance.

The STI Forum was jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in collaboration with the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).

The Forum outcomes including recommendations and Ministerial declaration will contribute to the third Science with Africa Conference.


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© 2012 Economic Commission for Africa