African science academies have cautioned against inflated expectations from the upcoming African Union (AU) high-level summit on science, technology and climate change, due to start later this month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Finance ministers have been urged to attend and provide financial backing to science initiatives agreed during the summit. Meanwhile, the presidents of Malawi and Zambia have confirmed their attendance, despite insecurity surrounding the region.
A delegation from the five-year-old Network of African Academies of Sciences, representing 13 academies on the continent, including South Africa, Nigeria and Uganda, is due to attend the eighth AU heads of state summit.
Stephen Agong of Kenya-based African Academies of Science, a member of the network, warned against assuming that 2007 would be the year that science finally got the recognition it deserved in Africa.
He said, "It takes time for governments to plan, commit and allocate funds to support this cause. This might be achieved a year down the line."
Agong noted that science ministers on their own might not be enough to make a strong case for science. He urged finance ministers to attend, as well as prime ministers and presidents.
Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika still intends to attend the eighth African Union summit, state house press officer Chikumbutso Mtumodzi confirmed with SciDev.Net.
Since ascending to power in 2004, Mutharika has taken a number of steps aims at prioritising science and technology in the country. Chief among these are plans to open the Lilongwe University of Science and Technology and moves to put the department of science and technology directly under the office of the president and cabinet.
Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa will also be travelling to Ethiopia. Vernon Mwaanga, chief government spokesman, told SciDev.Net, "The Zambian government is in a hurry to develop science and technology as the only means to develop the country. It is against this background that, no matter what it takes, the president has to be at the summit."
Richard Tushemereirwe, assistant on science and technology in Uganda, confirmed that president Yoweri Museveni would also be attending the summit. “The president has always thrown a lot of support towards the cause of science and he firmly believes it can transform our society from a primitive and backward one, to catch up with other societies considered modern," he said.