Awareness of the Role of STI in African Development


Science encompasses all useful knowledge about the laws of nature and the physical world and is generated through observation, experimentation, measurement, deduction.  Technology is the application of such knowledge for the satisfaction of human needs.  It extends people's capabilities and affects all areas of economic activities.  It defines civilizations, cultures and ways of life.  It shapes and accelerates socio-economic development and contributes to about 50% of economic growth in industrialized countries.  Technology is also a chronic disturber of comparative advantages. It creates new products and services, enhances productivity, competitiveness and economic performance, which in turn causes differences between products, companies and countries.  In short science and technology plays a crucial role in socioeconomic development and in producing the world order.


This role must be fully appreciated and understood by politicians, decision makers and by the whole community in order for science and technology to contribute its full potential to development.  There is a need to involve all the stakeholders in the policy formulation process.  The participation of all segments of society is necessary for policies to adequately address societal needs, to be relevant to local circumstances and to be able to exercise some political weight.


In this regard it is important to cultivate an awareness of the potentials and threats of science and technology to the livelihoods of African farmers.  Biotechnologies, as many other technologies for instance, may have detrimental effects on nature and humans.  They can also increase crop yields and income, reduced food aid dependency, reduce chemical use and farm input costs, reduce pre- and post-harvest losses, extend storage life, enhance desirable dietary traits, expand cultivation on marginal lands and broaden the range of crops that can be cultivated.  On the other hand, they can also make possible the production of substitute in industrialized countries, such as vanilla, thus affecting directly farmers in African countries, such as in Madagascar and Uganda. 


The industrialized countries, led by the United States and Canada, and some developing countries, such as China, Argentina and South Africa, have taken the lead in the application of emerging biotechnologies for agricultural development.