Conference on Scientific Research & Development in Africa

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Over 300 experts in scientific and technological developments will gather here next week to explore how African science based entities can step up their role in international research and development (R&D).

Discussions at the four-day conference, due to open 3 March 2008, will focus on how African research and development can be strengthened by addressing capacity needs, increasing usability of research outputs and fostering interaction among African scientists and other stakeholders.

Jointly organised by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC), the conference aims to turn science and technology into valid options for economic growth in Africa, through increased participation of African scientists in international research projects.

Participants at the meeting will include experts in the areas of science project management, dissemination, partnering, intellectual property and patents, research management and the commercialisation and exploitation of research results, the ECA announced Thursday.

In addition, African science and technology policy and decision makers as well as international development partners and representatives of the African private sector and civil society organisations will take part in the meeting.

Workshops and ‘marketplace’ sessions facilitating informal knowledge and best practices sharing will also feature at the gathering.

According to ECA Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh, Africa needs to undertake “a major science and technology capacity building initiative in order to generate, revamp and deploy large numbers of scientists, engineers and technicians.”

One of the strategic focus areas of ECA’s programme priorities is promoting regional integration in support of the AU vision and priorities.

For Africa to develop appropriate technologies for national needs, Janneh advocates the creation and fostering of strong links between technology-based industries, academic institutions and governments, as well as public-private partnerships in scientific and technological research.

Recognising the need for a focused discussion at the highest level on effective development and utilisation of science and technology, the January 2007 Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government declared 2007 as the launch year of building constituencies and champions for science and technology and innovation in Africa.

At the same Summit, the African leaders also supported the establishment of the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO) and reiterated their commitment to the Khartoum 2006 decision, urging Member States to allocate at least 1 per cent of their GDP to research and development.

Since the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit, when former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair highlighted the need to include improved technology transfer in the Millennium Development Goals, a number of high-level meetings have addressed the importance of the role of R&D and science in addressing deprivation in Africa.

Again at their Summit held from 6-8 June 2007 in Heiligendamm, Germany, the G8 leaders explicitly declared the aim of strengthening R&D cooperation between advanced and developing countries.

It is against this background that ECA and the AUC are organising ‘Science with Africa’ Conference in partnership with the Swiss Development Corporation, the Canadian ePolicy Resource Centre, the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), UNESCO, Microsoft and Nokia Siemens.

An innovative aspect of the conference is the “Ideas Factory”, which is aimed at knowledge sharing by participants on how African R&D can be strengthened and participation of African scientists in international research projects can be increased.

It is expected that a number of outstanding ideas will be tested and implemented after this Conference, which will also tackle a number of core science and crosscutting themes, including energy, transport and infrastructure, health, agriculture and climate change and water.

According to its organisers, the conference is expected to achieve, among other objectives, increased synergies between European, USA and other global science based organisations and those of Africa, to promote North-South cooperation.

It would also foster technology transfer and improve existing R&D activities, centres of excellence and partnerships; ensure improved linkages between international scientific research programmes and business enterprise to expedite economic growth in Africa and provide a framework for using Science and Technology options to support economic progress in Africa. Panapress .

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