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[CAIRO] Egypt's Ministry of Scientific Research has proposed that the African Union should set up an African Council for Scientific Research (ACSR) to help promote technology-based economic development across the continent.

Amr Salama, Egypt's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, made the proposal during the opening of the first African Congress for Scientific Research, Technology and Drug Industry held in Cairo from 13 to 15 December. 

According to Salama, the ACSR, which he suggested should be based in Cairo, would coordinate the work of African research centres and highlight priorities for African development. These include healthcare management and delivery; agriculture and food technology; efficient water management for irrigation and technologies for clean water; rural solar systems and efficient use of natural resources for energy production; biotechnology; the drug industry; and African traditional medicine, with a special emphasis on of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The proposed council would also explore the most effective ways of enhancing research in African countries, building up research capabilities, improving the overall performance and efficiency of existing institutions, and acting upon issues referred to it by the ministers of scientific research in African states, Salama added.

Hany El-Nazer, honorary president of the congress and current president of Egypt's National Research Centre, said the ACSR could promote joint scientific projects, as well as training courses for scientists and researchers in Africa.

El-Nazer added that establishing a database of scientists and researchers from all over Africa by ACSR would help open up channels of communication between the research, productive and service sectors in African states, as well as with international scientific institutions.

The African Union's commission on scientific research and technology has said that it will decide on whether to take up Egypt's proposal after consulting with ministers of scientific research from African states.

Also speaking at the congress, Suzanne Mubarak, wife of the Egyptian president, indicated that Egypt has scientific expertise with other African countries.

The congress was organised by the African Union, the African Society of Scientific Research and Technology, and the Foundation for Democracy in Africa, in collaboration with the Egyptian Society of Health Awareness.

Scientists, technologists and policy-makers from across Africa attended the congress, as well as a number of health, scientific research and higher education ministers from Zimbabwe, Congo, Namibia, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Congo Brazzaville and Egypt.