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Improving Science, Technology in Africa is Aim as G 8, African, UN Experts Convene in Berlin

G 8 experts and their African counterparts convene for two days in Germany, Oct. 18-19, to map out specific ways to meet agreed commitments to foster better economic and social conditions in Africa through science and technology (S&T).

The meeting advances the initiatives pledged in the declarations of the Gleneagles and Heiligendamm G 8 summits, supporting a strong commitment towards Africa’s development. About 70 experts from nine African nations, the G 8 and several international organizations will assess the state of African S&T and of south-north cooperation, set priorities and schedule specific future actions.

The meeting is jointly organized by the G 8 presidency and AMCOST - the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology. It is hosted by the two German federal ministries: Education and Research (BMBF) and Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in collaboration with the United Nations University (UNU).

Participants include high level representatives of AMCOST, G 8 member states, UNU and the European Union, plus observers from the World Bank, UNESCO, IAEA and the OECD. “The link from science and education investment to economic and social improvement has been proven in both Asia and Latin America”, says UN Under-Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of UNU. “Sadly, most of Africa is not in a position to harness science and technology to tackle its endemic problems of poverty, disease, inequity, and environmental degradation. Commitments made to help Africans remedy that must be met swiftly and UNU is honoured to facilitate this landmark meeting between African and G 8 experts”.

The meeting was first suggested when G 8 research ministers met their AMCOST counterparts in December 2006 in Leipzig, Germany. Five months later, participants at the World Forum on Science for Sustainable Development, organized by the G 8 and UNESCO in Trieste, Italy, noted promises made at the G 8 Leaders’ Summit in Gleneagles, 2005, had been followed by “limited action”.

The Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) has urged G 8 countries to deliver on the Gleneagles promises. The Berlin meeting will focus on the most urgent actions needed to implement a “Consolidated Plan of Action”, created under the leadership of African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Union (AU). The plan is based on three pillars: capacity building, knowledge production, and technological innovation. It identifies a range of research and development priorities: biodiversity, biotechnology, and indigenous knowledge; energy, water, climate, environment and desertification; material sciences, manufacturing, laser and post-harvest technologies; information and communication technologies, and space science and technologies; mathematical sciences; and science, technology and innovation (STI) indicators. It also set goals for improving African policies and institutions between 2006 and 2010. Participants in the Berlin meetings will look for ways to:

• Remove redundancies and create synergies between activities already underway;

• Promote S&T cooperation, the exchange of experiences and expertise, and create sustainable international partnerships;

• Encourage private sector involvement to create research-intensive universities in Africa, as well as public private partnerships;

• Implement a regular African report on the state of S&T advancement;

• Improve and promote the shared use of research infrastructure and facilities;
• Create institutional and policy arrangements to mobilize and share S&T resources;

• Increase the number of African scientists, technicians and engineers;

• Strengthen the capacity of scientific and technical academies to contribute to national and regional policy making processes;

• Strengthen regional economic bodies to mainstream S&T into their sectoral programmes and projects;

• Promote applications of S&T to achieve Millennium Development Goals; and

• Explore innovative ways of financing African S&T.
Participants will prioritize short, medium and long-term action. Ideas under discussion for implementation of the Consolidated Plan of Action include: Establish an African Science and Innovation Fund (ASIF) to ensure sustainable funding for science, technology and innovation programmes.

ASIF represents an intergovernmental mechanism to mobilize technical and financial resources for the implementation of the CPA:

-Review countries’ national policies and related institutional arrangements including Science and Technology Indicators (STI);

-Promote integration of STI consideration into national development plans, poverty reduction strategy papers, and related frameworks for achieving the Millennium Development Goals;

-Establish an intergovernmental committee to develop and adopt common indicators for surveying and preparing an African STI report;

-Develop a 20-year regional programme for biotechnology (proposed by the African high-level panel on modern biotechnology)

Experiences across Africa with existing funding schemes as well as good and inadequate practices will be reviewed. A flexible funding mechanism will help promote engagement from a wide range of donors (e.g. development banks, bilateral development agencies, foundations, and NGOs). AMCOST is the overall governance structure for setting continental priorities and policies for the development and application of science and technology. It is instrumental in planning and carrying out the meetings in Berlin.

Wangu Mwangi | alfa
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