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[LUSAKA] Southern African nations are to increase their scientific collaboration with Japan through an organisation called the Southern Africa Science and Technology Community (SASTeC), which launched last month (31 January).

The group is made up of staff at the embassies in Japan of member nations of the Southern Africa Development Community.

SASTeC will organise scientist exchange programmes and encourage data sharing between Japan and the southern African nations.

Zambia's science minister, Judith Kapijimpanga, says SASTeC is "a step towards science development" in southern Africa.

Through SASTec, Japan with also fund some research programmes in the region, says Godfrey Simasiku, Zambia's ambassador to Japan.

Simasiku adds that SASTeC would coordinate with Japanese efforts to cooperate with African countries through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

NEPAD's science and technology advisor, John Mugabe, says that if well-designed, the project could improve science education among young people in southern Africa.

But he adds that many other initiatives are needed to stimulate scientific and technological development in the region.

The South African embassy's science and technology office will serve as the SASTeC secretariat.