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An international commission is asking for suggestions on effective steps that Africa, with the assistance of the international community, can take to address the problems of poverty and its need for social and economic development.

The request comes in the form of a consultation document that has been published by the Commission for Africa, a body of 17 members — eight from the African continent — that was set up earlier this year by Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair.

The commission will report its findings, including the results of responses to the consultation document, to the heads of the world's eight leading industrialised nations early next year.

These are then expected to discuss their response when they hold their annual G8 meeting in Scotland in July, which will be chaired by Britain. This response, and in particular the extent to which the G8 leaders support the commission's recommendations, is likely to set the political framework for international aid to Africa in the following years.

The document includes several references to areas in which support for science in Africa might be enhanced. For example, it suggest that rich countries could ask for volunteer scientists to work in Africa, and highlights the importance of supporting science and technology as part of an effort to reinvigorate African universities.

Specific areas in which it proposes additional investment in science and technology are the strengthening of health systems, and the "rebuilding" of agricultural research, development and extension services, including the capacities of universities in these fields.

But it also says that it welcomes both comments on these (and other) suggestions, as well as other proposals and recommendations for action. "What would your priorities be?" it asks. "We need your reactions. These will be reflected in the report, and will help to shape it."

The consultation paper states that, without a sustained push, there is little chance that the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals for halving world poverty by 2015 will be met.

A minor, short-term or fragmented approach will, among other short-comings, not provide the crucial boost to infrastructure necessary for growth, it says.

"Nor will it address the lack of sound institutions and trained personnel, which deters investors, both domestic and foreign, and prevents health, education and other services reaching the poor."

One goal, the paper adds, is to arrive at proposals that are sufficiently radical to make a real different to the people of Africa, but which are not so radical that they are deemed politically undeliverable by donor nations. "Your suggestions on how to achieve this balance would be particularly welcomed".

Click here to download the consultation document

Editor's note:

In response to the Commission for Africa's request, we encourage all users of this website — but particularly those living in Africa and engaged in science- and technology-related issues — to submit comments, suggestions and reactions to the proposals listed in the consultation document.

Themes to which respondents might choose to reply include:

  1. Does the document place sufficient emphasis on the importance of science and technology in all areas of Africa's development, not merely in promoting health and food security?
  1. Does it adequately address the need for of capacity building in science and technology, particularly if African nations are to play a meaningful role in the emerging knowledge economy?
  1. Is sufficient attention paid to the need to ensure community participation at all levels in determining the continent's scientific requirements, as well as the role of women in this process?
  1. Should greater attention be given to the need to integrate traditional knowledge and local technological skills with the fruits of modern science and technology?

  2. Is enough emphasis given to environmental challenges, such as global warming, that threaten to undermine much of Africa's development efforts?

The commission has asked that all comments should be sent directly to its secretariat by emailing [email protected]. The subject line of emails should be marked: 'Submission October-December Consultation', followed by your name or the name of your organisation. The deadline for submissions is 17 December.

Submissions can also be posted to: The Secretariat to the Commission for Africa, 20 Victoria Street, London, SW1H ONF, United Kingdom.

Alternatively, you may choose to send your comments directly to us by clicking on the "comment" button below. We will collate the responses received and forward them to the commission. We will also select any appropriate responses for publication on this website.