Africa ‘needs to do more to boost innovation’

Innovation means using the fruits of basic research Copyright: Flickr/CIMMYT

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[ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE] The European Union and Sub-Saharan Africa must create an institutional environment to encourage innovation on the African continent, a conference has heard.

The second meeting of the Network for the Coordination and Advancement of Sub-Saharan
Africa-EU Science and Technology Cooperation (CAAST-Net), held in Dakar, Senegal, last month (24–25 April), recommended that African governments bring together industry and academia to use innovation for the development of their respective countries.

Almamy Konté, director of technological research at the Ministry of Scientific Research in Senegal, said there is little interaction between researchers, governmental authorities and the private sector in many African countries, particularly Senegal.

"This situation does not favour innovation," he told SciDev.Net.

Gerasimos Apostolatos, principal scientific officer at the European Commission, said that innovation is essential to Africa’s development. He added that innovating is about making sure the fruits of basic research are adopted, as well as about creating and developing products.

Because of a lack of funding and synergy between academia and industry, technological innovation is lagging in Africa, said Ndèye Adji Sall, general manager of the Senegalese Agency for Industrial Property and Technological Innovation.

In Senegal, she said, "about 100 to 150 patents from Senegalese craftsmen, researchers and inventors are still [lying unused] in office drawers for various reasons, mainly due to people’s ignorance of the advantages linked to information on patents".

She said that the solution lies in raising awareness of procedures for technological innovation and patents among researchers and government employees.

Sall added that her organisation will be targeting commercial banks in a series of campaigns to encourage them to finance the development of promising innovations.

The conference also explored a range of issues related to the role of innovation systems and policies in the context of bi-regional cooperation, with a view of enhancing the contributions of research and development to identifying solutions to global challenges.

CAAST-Net was established in 2007 and its first meeting was held in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2009. The CAAST-Net conferences aim to reinforce scientific and technological cooperation between the European Union and Sub-Saharan Africa by analysing how the cooperation takes place at every level, from bilateral agreements to regional programmes.

The conferences also offer opportunities to learn about good practice, obstacles and constraints, and success factors in scientific cooperation.