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[RABAT, MOROCCO] African countries often depend on foreign scientific research and are scarcely sharing those undertaken on the continent, a ministerial forum has been told.

The Second Ministerial Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Africa, which is taking place this week in Morocco (15-17 October),  aims to engage stakeholders, including African ministers of higher education, to use STI for sustainable growth on the continent, according to its organiser African Development Bank (ADB) and partners — governments of Finland and Morocco.

“It is still difficult to find Africa-led research and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is a clear demonstration of that.”
Lahcen Doudi, Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Professional Training, Morocco

Moroccan minister for higher education, scientific research and professional training, Lahcen Doudi, during the opening session, said: “We do not only need research based on our needs but sharing is also extremely important if we have to grow. We have depended on research and innovations from the developed world markets that are not tailored to our own unique needs and situations”.

For instance, Doudi explains that a large portion of Africa is dry, and there is an urgent need to use science to develop affordable technologies and innovations on how to generate solar energy to power socioeconomic growth, but the continent still largely depends on expensive fossil fuel imports.

He is calling for a paradigm shift that will ensure continental joint strategies and investments in STI as a means to taking Africa to new heights of growth instead of “working in silos”.

“It is still difficult to find Africa-led research and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is a clear demonstration of that,” Doudi adds. “If it was in the developed world resources could have been mobilised to develop [its] vaccine, but since it started here not much attention had been given to it until it threatened the Western countries.”

Yacin Fal, ADB resident representative in Morocco, says that STI is crucial for achieving economic growth in Africa. “The developing and use of home-grown technologies and innovations is crucial if Africa is to add value to its products and compete effectively in the international market and to address her development challenges,” she adds.

The bank, Fal notes, will continue to be involved in the funding of new technologies as a way of ensuring that Africa develops, noting: “We will support research and innovation in areas such as the academic sector to spur growth in Africa”.

Christina Harttila, the ambassador of Finland in Morocco, says that Africa should open new frontiers for the continent’s sustainable development through investments, sharing of ideas, networking and cooperation in STI both from within and outside the continent.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk