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Africa should commit to spending on science and technology

African scientists, as well as most political leaders in Africa, would fully agree with the opinions expressed in the recent article Africa must set own agenda for science aid.

Similar ideas were addressed at a conference organised by the African Union in Dakar, Senegal, last October, in which delegates discussed a programme of action for African science.

I would also like to comment on some of the ideas expressed in last year's report by the InterAcademy Panel, which SciDev.Net reported last year (see Academies call for two global science funds).

International experience shows that it is illusory to plan to boost science and technology capacity in developing countries through global science funds and external financial sources.

That, as you suggested in an editorial, was one of the main lessons from the UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development held in Vienna in 1979, and the failure of its projected global financing system (see Capacity building: a chance for action).

Rather than commit themselves to a major increase in their level of external funding, developed countries should seek to persuade each developing country to allocate at least one per cent of its gross national product to research and development, as recommended by the Programme of Action adopted at the end of the Vienna meeting.

Only serious local and national commitment to financing science and technology can build a sustainable base for such activities in developing countries.