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Political leadership — not market forces — is the key to the successful advancement of science and technology in Africa, according to a group of top science-policy officials and leading politicians from more than 15 African countries.

The conclusion was endorsed at the end of a ministerial forum held last month in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, attended among others by the science and technology ministers of Algeria, Mali and Nigeria.

The forum was part of a five-day workshop on “Science and Technology and Africa’s Global Inclusion” organised jointly by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and the Nairobi-based African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS).

A consensus statement, which was distributed last week, urges African government to develop “as a matter of urgency” national policies on information and communication technology, and on biotechnology, “in order to realise the full benefits of these technologies”.

The statement is signed by Turner Isoun, Nigeria’s minister of science and technology, and Osita Ogbu, executive director of ATPS. It says that science and technology should not only be a concern of national governments, but also a priority for provincial and local governments.

Achieving this, it adds, “requires national strategy, constitutions and expenditures which reflect co-ordinated efforts by the various levels of government”. And the consensus statement goes on to state that leaders, not markets, should drive the process of scientific and technological advancement.

In recognition of this, the statement proposes that ATPS set up an annual award of excellence for an African leader who “has demonstrated evidence of leadership in promoting science and technology for development in Africa”.

The statement also warns African governments of the need for caution in signing the international conventions and agreements that are coming to form the core of global governance, “scientific or otherwise”.

African countries must ensure that they have a proper understanding of the implications of such agreements for their respective economies, the statement says. In particular, they need “to carefully consider the benefits and costs of surrendering their national sovereignty in signing global conventions”.

Ogbu says that the aim of ATPS in helping to organise the meeting in Abuja was not only to discuss different aspects of the theme of the meeting with scholars, experts and policy makers spanning more than 20- countries of Africa, Europe and North America, but also “to support and strengthen the work of the [Nigerian] ministry and to gain from its new science and technology thrust”.

He says that the consensus statement will help to articulate the research agenda of ATPS in the coming years. And he adds that the forum held in Abuja “is going to be institutionalised in keeping with the challenges that ATPS and its constituencies anticipate”.

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Link to Consensus Statement   PDF document

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