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[CAPE TOWN] Countries taking part in Africa's most detailed survey of research and innovation to date have been given a three-month extension to gather the required data.

The extension was granted at a workshop for the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) initiative that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week (30 November – 3 December).

The workshop was meant to consolidate the results of national questionnaires sent out 4–5 months ago to gather detailed information on African science and innovation activity.

The questionnaires were sent to government departments, research institutions and private sector organisations, requesting information on areas such as research and development (R&D) expenditure, where the money goes, and what innovative products or services have emerged as a result of investment.

The result will be two reports — one on African R&D activity in 2007 and another on innovation activity in the three-year period 2006–2008.

Gathering the data is taking longer than expected, said Philippe Mawoko, coordinator of the ASTII initiative, because most of the organisations are not used to this type of questionnaire and have struggled to respond in the prescribed time. "Only Tunisia and South Africa do this kind of data-gathering already," he said.

Mawoko says the final reports will be ready in six months. The surveys will be repeated annually, he adds.

The 19 countries in the ASTII initiative are Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. However, some have collected only innovation data or R&D figures, not both, and will feature in only one of the final reports.

This is the first time that data on African science, technology and innovation have been produced, managed and owned by Africans, said Umar Bindir, director-general of Nigeria's National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion.

"There are heaps of data and structures on Africa, but not owned by Africa," Bindir said. "The intellect to keep, process, interpret and release are all in the hands of either non-Africans, or Africans in structures that are not African, which is what makes Africa so dependent."

The ASTII data will be collected and stored by the African Observatory for Science, Technology and Innovation, which is being set up in Equatorial Guinea by the African Union (see Equatorial Guinea may host S&T monitoring facility).

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