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In the final declaration of the Africa Union (AU) summit, heads of state have agreed on a series of steps to promote science and technology across the continent.

In the conclusions to the AU summit meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, released on Friday (2 February), African leaders committed themselves to promote science education and allocate more funds to research and development.

They made a joint commitment to encourage more young people to take up studies in science, technology and engineering, and to ensure the "revitalisation" of African universities.

According to the declaration, universities need sufficient support not only to act as "loci of science, technology and engineering education and development", but also to improve the public's understanding of science and technology.

African leaders promised to establish national and regional centres of excellence in science and technology across the continent.

And they "strongly urged" all AU countries to allocate at least one per cent of their gross national product to research and development by the year 2020.

The declaration seeks to set broad guidelines within which individual AU members should develop their science and technology policies.

It commits heads of state "to advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology".

The document states that achievement of the Millennium Development Goals "depends on our countries' ability to harness science and technology for development", and commits the countries to "increased and sustained investment in science, technology and innovation".

Encouraging more young people to enter scientific and technical careers, it acknowledges, requires member states "to pay special attention to the teaching of science and technology".

But all this will require increased funding for science at the national, regional and continental level. Given this, the AU heads of state urge bilateral and multilateral organisations to provide the support needed to implement the summit's decisions.

No mention is made of plans to establish an African Science and Innovation Fund, as the AU leaders failed to reach a consensus on how it should operate (see AU endorses biotechnology plan, but not science fund).

It is hoped that an agreement will be reached in time for a ministerial meeting due to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in May.

Finally, the heads of state endorsed the need for South-South and North-South cooperation in science, technology and innovation, and to enhance the role of such cooperation in international partnerships.

Read more about the AU summit in SciDev.Net's dedicated news focus.