African attitudes to S&T 'must change'
[MBARARA] Attitude and cultural tendencies are still major obstacles to knowledge transfer of science, technology and innovation (ST&I) in Africa and the rest of the developing world, say experts.
The remarks were made by delegates on the opening day of a ST&I symposium in Mbarara, Uganda last week (14 September), a precursor to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in the country in November.
The event looked at the needs of society — particularly the private sector and industry — in relation to the scientific knowledge and human resources provided by the education sector.
William Banage, of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, said ST&I "goes beyond" just knowledge transfer between research institutions or north and south universities.
He said that it was necessary to "transform the social thinking" about science and technology and the transfer of this knowledge to the wider society, especially in a continent plagued by socioeconomic and natural problems such as climate change.
Banage told SciDev.Net that society must be geared towards accepting and applying evidence-based knowledge generated by scientific institutions, while older cultural ways of thinking like magic and faith healing should be discarded.
Tony Mitchell of the UK-based Knowledge Transfers Partnerships, a scheme that helps research organisations exploit their knowledge commercially, said that deep-seated mistrust between businesses and researchers in science and technology institutions must end.
"Businesses do not look at scientists as if they have answers to their problems, yet it is through ST&I knowledge transfer that social and economic transformation will take place and improve wealth creation and people's livelihoods," he said.
Mitchell said human capital from science and technology universities and tertiary colleges were not valued and there is little transfer of knowledge from institutions, leading to a cycle of underdevelopment in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.
He said graduates from these institutions are not valued and that industries do not trust them with important projects or to produce solutions for the problems affecting them.
There must be ways of working collaboratively among those who are thinking of the future, he said, adding that those industries that do not believe in ST&I knowledge will not prosper.