African ambassadors are moving to cement new ties with the United States using science and technology.
At a meeting convened last month (27 February) at the Rwandan Embassy in Washington, United States, African ambassadors and US embassy representatives discussed ideas for strengthening Africa's science and technology capacity — building on resolutions passed at the African Union summit earlier this year.
Africa's priority needs — together with potential scientific solutions — should be gathered into a 'clearing-house for information' to help identify opportunities for future collaboration between African and US institutions and companies, the ambassadors say.
They also recommended that existing African science institutions be reformed to better align them to current development needs.
In addition, they say Africa's needs and successes should be showcased to the US congress, such as the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology's efforts to solve practical rural problems using information and communication technology in Rwanda.
In his presentation to the meeting, Montague Demment, director of Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Programs — funded by the United States Agency for International Development — highlighted the key role that the United States can play in enhancing science activities in Africa.
But he said the United States now invests less in African science, a situation
that is likely get worse with the reorganisation of US foreign assistance and its new focus on short-term, quick-impact projects.
He said alternative funding sources, such the Millennium Challenge Corporation, are yet to increase investment in African science and education.
Yet emerging interest in science among African leaders and policymakers, as well as charitable foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is renewing hope for greater investment.
Calestous Juma, director of the Science, Technology and Globalization project at Harvard University's Kennedy school of government, said the discussions build on the Rwanda and US joint declaration signed last month (see Rwanda to gain from US scientific expertise).
The meeting was convened by the US-based Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development which is co-chaired by Abdoulaye Diop, ambassador of Mali, and Amadou Ba, ambassador of Senegal.
It was attended by 20 African ambassadors to the US and 14 embassy representatives.