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When African Union heads of state meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for their annual summit next week (29 January), they must not let international politics distract them from the scientific issues at hand, says this Nature editorial.

The meeting is set to be Africa's highest-powered gathering on science in years, with an agenda focused on climate change, and science and technology for development.

But Ethiopia's military intervention in Somalia could snatch the limelight at the summit. African leaders will inevitably want time and space to respond to the situation.

Still, the meeting's organisers have refused to change the agenda — determined that science not give way to politics.

Previous attempts to engage African leaders with science have failed due to political instability and violence. But today, many countries in Africa have elected governments that are both settled and enthusiastic about scientific decision-making.

The editorial argues that the African Union is well placed to put meaningful science initiatives in place on the continent.

Link to full article in Nature

Reference: Nature 445, 356 (2007)

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