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[LILONGWE] Malawi has become the twentieth country to join an Africa-wide effort to try and measure the impact of science on development.

The country joins the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) surveys initiated by the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).

The agreement was signed in Lilongwe last week (23 September) by Anthony Livuza, principal secretary of Malawi's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and Aggrey Ambali, NEPAD's acting head of science and technology.

"In this age of rapid technological change, economic development is increasingly dependent on research and development … It is, therefore, important for Malawi to produce a set of relevant, accurate, timely, complete and reliable indicators," said Livuza, quoted in the Daily Times.

Malawi will conduct a survey and measure indicators — such as the amounts and type of funding allocated to research and development, and the number of science graduates from universities — that might reveal the impact of science and technology on the economy.

The initiative is of paramount importance, says Henry Mbedza, director of science and technology in the Malawian government.

Mbedza told SciDev.Net the one-year programme will begin with training in Lilongwe from 27–29 October, showing 15 government and university staff how to collect statistical data on the effectiveness of initiatives and investments supporting Malawian science and technology. The information will aid policymakers in decision-making, Mbedza says.

Participants include Angela Msosa, chief statistician with the Malawi National Statistical Office in Zomba. Other researchers will come from the Office of the Economic Planning and Development Minister, the Department of Agriculture Research and Technical Services, the National Research Council and the University of Malawi.

But Ishmael Kosamu, who heads the Physics and Biosciences Department at the Malawi Polytechnic in Blantyre, says the mere quantification of what the government invests in research will not alone solve the scientific challenges facing society. Although the initiative looks good, Kosamu says, much more must be done to implement the findings of science.

The initiative is part of the follow up to the Consolidated Plan of Action set by African science ministers in 2005 and adopted by African Union heads of state in 2007.

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