African scientists call for permanent forum

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African scientists on Thursday ended a four-day brainstorming conference in Addis Ababa with a call for the creation of a secretariat that will serve as a permanent forum for interaction between them and their international partners.

Conveners of the conference, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC), were urged to collaborate to set up the secretariat that among other functions will monitor and evaluate actions that the scientists have suggested to move the continent forward in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

For Africa to occupy an appropriate position in the contemporary global knowledge-driven economy, it has to put to better use current scientific knowledge and skills to address its priorities, according to the final report of the conference.

The Science with Africa Conference called on the African Union (AU) and its partners to foster the development of the African science and technology policy framework.

At the same time, the report suggested that African countries prioritise innovation as part of the science and technology strategy for job creation, market competitiveness and wealth creation.

“African countries should develop national innovation systems that have clear development indicators, and clear interface between education, research, science and technology policy and business enterprises,” said the report.

It said the continent required policies that were founded on its basic needs, especially poverty reduction through sustainable economic growth.

The report said in view of the persistent shortage of funding for scientific research and innovation activities by African institutions, the conference suggested that governments and the private sector should undertake mobilization of the necessary funds.

Noting that almost all African countries need an enabling environment to put science and technology to use, the conference called on governments to develop mechanisms that will address the brain drain and encourage the circulation of experts through South-South and North-South cooperation.

With regard to intellectual property rights (IPR), the conference heard that Africa faces challenges in setting up balanced systems, technical capacity building and adoption of a common position at international meetings on the issue.

“Some of the existing IPR protocols have strong protection regimes that increase prices of some commodities and promote piracy,” said the report.

It was noted that Africa continued to lose its indigenous knowledge and traditional artifacts due to inadequate IPR regimes, while the few available patents could not be commercialized due to lack of financial resources, technology and access to markets.

In order to improve the performance of poorly functioning transport and energy supply systems, the meeting advised African institutions dealing with these sectors, including water and infrastructure, to establish networks for sharing information, knowledge and experience.

Besides scientists other participants of the conference were policy and decision makers, entrepreneurs, journalists and students in the disciplines of science and technology. Panapress.

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