Science, technology and innovation (STI) have a key role to play in ensuring the successful implementation of development programmes, from basic data collection to the formulation of interventions and the development of innovative knowledge products that address energy, water, food and education needs.
This according to Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, who addressed the 13th General Conference and 26th General Meeting of The World Academy of Science (TWAS), hosted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna last week.
Minister Pandor said new technologies could be as transformative in energy as the mobile phone has been in telecommunications.
“Similarly, new technologies could transform African agriculture. Boost Africa’s green and blue revolutions and Africa will be transformed. Innovation can generate a much-needed improvement to Africa’s food and nutritional security,” the Minister added.
The best investment in Africa’s long-term sustainable development is an investment in the continent’s people and their skills. African countries have made a determined effort to increase research, development and innovation (RDI). The past 15 years have seen interventions in higher education, science councils, academies and universities.
The Minister said that many countries had begun to budget for STI, and that South Africa was trying to increase investment in research and development to 1,5% of GDP by 2019.
In spite of the positive shift in RDI, Minister Pandor said, “We have not yet begun to generate the levels of success we agreed to when we developed our first Africa STI Plan of Action. Last year we adopted our second Africa STI Plan and we are currently developing action plans. The new strategy prioritises research to drive economic and social development across the continent. It commits signatory countries to six goals, including tackling hunger, disease and unemployment, and will set up structures to pursue them.”
African RDI programmes are progressing in a number of disciplines. The African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI) is one example. By establishing networks of centres of excellence in health innovation in Africa, ANDI is playing a critical role in helping to ensure better coordination of and efficiency in investments harnessing STI to fight disease in Africa. The centres of excellence focus on drug and vaccine development, diagnostics, and medical devices and technologies. With targeted interventions across the full innovation value chain, the goal is also to boost Africa’s indigenous pharmaceutical capacity for optimal impact on society.
African countries are also increasingly forming African partnerships on RDI. For example, South Africa and Uganda are collaborating on projects promoting science and sustainable livelihoods. Various Africa partnerships have been designed to increase access to technology and innovation resources. The UK/South Africa Newton Fund initiative is growing African participation in a major human capital development opportunities. Emerging links between the BRICS nations are also illustrating new South-South collaboration and offer the possibility of well-crafted responses to the needs of developing countries. Astronomy and related sciences have also given reinvigorated science in South Africa and other African countries.
The Minister said building effective, mutually beneficial global partnerships was a consistent theme, and a priority of the national strategy for STI in South Africa.
“Major research infrastructure should be located in developing countries to develop, attract and retain talent. An example of this is the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which has campuses in Cape Town and New Delhi,” said Minister Pandor.
At a regional level, the Minister called for cooperation in STI to be intensified to address policy priorities such as public health. The Southern African Biosciences Initiative, a programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which brings together several countries in the Southern African Development Community, is a good example of such cooperation.
The Minister emphasised that international partnerships should be co-owned and co-determined by all partners.
“Developing countries today are at the forefront of global scientific discovery, as highlighted for example by the pioneering work undertaken in South Africa in areas such as microbicides to prevent HIV/Aids, as well as drug and vaccine development for malaria and tuberculosis. This is shown by the full participation of several African countries, including as funding parties and equal partners, in the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.”
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS