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[ADDIS ABABA] The UN Economic Commission for Africa has called for a major training initiative to tackle the decline in African science and technology.

Speaking at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week (25 January), Abdoulie Janneh, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said African science and technology policies were outdated and links between the scientific community and political institutions "very weak".

He called for Africa to undertake "a major science and technology capacity building initiative to generate, revamp and deploy large numbers of scientists, engineers and technicians".

There must be "strong linkages" between technology-based industries, academic institutions and government if Africa is to develop appropriate technologies for national needs, Janneh said. He called for more public-private partnerships in science and technology research.

Janneh told the African Union's Executive Council meeting that the quality of science and engineering education in Africa is on the decline, partly due to the "absence of physical infrastructure and equipments", which has limited the capacity to develop and adapt innovations.

He said many African countries were using obsolete technologies while a number of them had failed to honour the Lagos Plan of Action, agreed in 1980, which outlined a radical transformation of African economies through more investment in research.

The Lagos Plan called for African countries to allocate at least one per cent of their gross domestic product to research and development, but Janneh said many countries devote "considerably lower" funding.

He said that African countries "have to scale up their investments in science and technology" if the region is to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

At the Executive Council meeting, African foreign affairs ministers and their science and technology counterparts, adopted a proposal to better utilise the expertise and innovations developed by African scientists now working in the West.

Botlhale Tema, director of science and technology of the Africa Union Commission, told SciDev.Net that improving interaction between these scientists and those in African nations could improve science training and research programmes in the region.

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