The Commission for Africa and last year's G8 summit have both emphasised science and technology as a way to alleviate Africa of poverty and debt.
Yet by-and-large, trained scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and agriculturalists have not been made a developmental priority, says David King in this editorial in Science.
Importing Western technology is not a solution unless local people can be trained to use, maintain and distribute it. Neither is bringing in Westerners to fill the gap in African science and technology skills, says King.
Africans must develop high-quality scientific and technological skills relevant to their home countries — even a small number can make a difference to their communities, he argues.
The key is partnerships led by Africans themselves, for instance under the auspices of the African Union.
This, he adds, should be combined with foreign aid that does not tie African nations to contractors and companies from donor countries, but allows them to follow their own development strategy.