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[CAPE TOWN] Egypt has vowed to "maintain momentum" in building African science and technology (S&T) capacity when it takes over as chair of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) this month.

The two-year role will pass to Egypt from the current chair, Kenya, when AMCOST meets in Cairo next week (7–10 March).

"Science and technology is at the top of our national agenda and we have made great progress in the past two years. We hope that our experience will be passed to our African colleagues, and we will keep the momentum going," Maged Al-Sherbiny, Egypt's assistant minister for scientific research, told SciDev.Net this week.

Al-Sherbiny said that 25 African science ministers will attend the meeting along with a host of foreign organisations, including the WHO, various UN agencies and the US National Science Foundation. A delegation from Japan's Office of the Prime Minister will also attend to discuss ways in which it can support African science.

The meeting will address the funding shortages that have thwarted pan-African science initiatives such as the Pan-African University.

In October last year, African Union science, technology and human resources commissioner Jean-Pierre Ezin told a conference in Durban, South Africa, that his organisation was short of money as a result of the global financial downturn (see Financial crisis squeezes African science funding).

Al-Sherbiny said next week's meeting will discuss how to deal with the financial crisis, adding that he was expecting the European Commission to deliver good news about funding.

The AMCOST meeting will also hear progress reports on Africa's Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (see Africa Analysis: Continent's science plan needs refocus), including the African Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) which is due to produce its first report on African science and innovation outputs in the next few months.

The meeting will receive an update from the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI), which is preparing to raise a US$600m endowment fund for research (see Plans cemented for African health innovation), and will hear the outcomes of a European Union call for research for African researchers in September last year.

Rasigan Maharajh, chief director of the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation in South Africa, told SciDev.Net that Egypt should seize the opportunity to "shift beyond rhetorical posturing and move the agenda towards delivering pragmatic solutions" to the challenges the continent faces.

He added that ASTII's report will provide the evidence needed to inform science policy on the continent.

And Paul van Gardingen, director of the International Development Centre at the UK's University of Edinburgh, said Egypt should promote buy-in from individual countries. "If AMCOST shows leadership, if countries show their own commitment, then things might happen."