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[DAKAR] Africa is determined to integrate science and technology into efforts to fast-track the continent’s development, says African Union (AU) chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma.

Speaking during an interview at the sidelines of the 2015 African Higher Education Summit in Senegal, Dlamini-Zuma told SciDev.Net that Africa has articulated its development goals known as Agenda 2063 and would ride on the back of Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) — a policy document adopted in June 2014 by the AU — to achieve this goal.

“And if the world accepts what Africa needs as part of what the world needs to do, that will be an honour for us, but if they don’t, we [will] still continue to do what we think Africa needs.”

Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma, AU

Dlamini- Zuma said “If you look at our common position that we are using to appreciate science and technology, you will see that it is part of our Agenda 2063, which is that whether it is accepted globally or not, we will still implement it because it is what we think Africa needs.

“And if the world accepts what Africa needs as part of what the world needs to do, that will be an honour for us, but if they don’t, we [will] still continue to do what we think Africa needs.” 

According to the AU chairperson,Africa can negotiate with the world on science and technology, “but we don’t need the world to tell us what we need in Africa and what we need to do in Africa.”

The AU adopted the ten-year STISA-2024 following interaction between African policymakers and members of the academic institutions in Africa and in the diaspora.

STISA-2024, according to the AU, addresses the critical socio-economic priority areas of eradicating hunger and ensuring food and nutrition security; disease prevention and control; communication; protection of space; building the community and wealth creation.

The AU says these priorities provide ample opportunity for synergies to make STI a multi-functional tool for Africa’s development.

In the AU plan, the scientific community and stakeholders will be involved in flagship research programmes and actions, with funding to respond to the challenges in key priority impact areas.

The AU heads of state and government called upon member states, regional economic communities and development partners to align, connect and use STISA-2024 as a reference framework in designing and coordinating their STI development agendas and initiatives to collectively contribute to Africa’s socio-economic development.

Political will and financial commitment from member states that goes beyond the Khartoum Declaration of contributing one per cent of member countries’gross domestic product (GDP) spending on research and development is required to achieve this goal, said Dlamini- Zuma, adding that the AU has agreed that this pledge must be honoured for STISA-2024 targets to be met.

The AU chairperson said investing in science and technology is ambitious, and would enable Africa to innovate and produce the scientists, doctors and engineers needed to spur development.

“We are going to persuade countries one by one, and those who will accept it will see the benefit, and that will make others follow suit,” she added.

But Adebayo Olukoshi, the director of the United Nations African Institute for Development and Economic Planning in Senegal, says Africa needs to have a scale up of its science and technology funding.

“The one percent of GDP proposed by the AU as funding for science and technology is just like a drop in the ocean. The background from where we are coming is one that Africa has continued to lag behind in terms of scientific output. This requires sustainable funding for Africa to make a difference,” Olukoshi argues.

He adds that regions and countries that dominate scientific funding are those leading scientific output globally, and that African countries should devote more funding to advance science and technology.
>Link to the STISA-2024 report

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