Invest in R&D to enable Africa achieve SDGs

WASH focal point for the local government
Copyright: Andrew McConnell / Panos

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  • Africa produces only two per cent of global research output
  • The continent should invest in R&D capacity building
  • A long-term funding strategy for STIs could help achieve the SDGs

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[NAIROBI]  Building capacity in science, technology and innovation (STI), and research and development (R&D) is critical for Africa in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a forum has heard.
During the 5th National Science Week held in Kenya last month (16-20 May) experts discussed that Africa’s capacity to compete in the global market depends on its people’s ability to innovate and apply the relevant technology for growth and development.

“A well-coordinated partnership and … intra-African cooperation can provide security, build resilient infrastructure [and] foster innovation.”

Berhanu Abegaz, African Academy of Sciences


Kenya’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) and other partners organised the meeting.
Moses Rugutt, director-general of NACOSTI, said that Africa is home to dynamic innovators and institutions poised to advance the continent’s research agenda and Africa’s future. But he noted that whereas Africa accounts for 15 per cent of the global population, it produces only about two per cent of the world’s research output.
Rugutt added that Africa should lay the foundation for sustained, scientific advocacy effort to increase international and local African investment in R&D.
Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s cabinet secretary of MOEST, noted that in order for Africa to achieve the SDGs, a knowledge-based economy should be established.
He explained that more than half of African countries invest less than 0.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on research, which is inadequate.
According to Matiang’i, Kenya, a major regional hub for emerging technologies that supporting overall socio-economic development, needs to allocate two per cent of its GDP to R&D instead of the current 0.3 per cent.
Matiang’i adds that local universities and institutions should think smartly by encouraging students to take up technical courses and leadership in STI to support local innovations.
Berhanu Abegaz, executive director of the Kenya-based African Academy of Sciences, science and technology could make Africa achieve sustainable development.

He calls upon African governments to take action, prioritise, support and build capacity for local scientific research and innovation to shape the continent’s R&D agenda.
“A well-coordinated partnership and … intra-African cooperation can provide security, build resilient infrastructure [and] foster innovation” notes Abegaz, citing a need for Africa to have a long-term funding strategy.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.