International and Regional Cooperation in Science, Technology and InnovationI in Africa


There is no doubt that most African countries have so far been too weak to design, construct and run viable science and technology systems.  They thus recognize the need and opportunities that may accrue from regional approaches.  In all areas of S&T national and regional professional associations have been formed but have generally been weak.  However, they present a basis for possible regional strategies for development of collaborative programs that would be effective regionally. 


There is much to be gained by liaising, networking, partnering and collaborating with industrialized, industrializing and developing countries.  ECA is making notable efforts in this regard, through proactive interactions with a number of international organizations, including the G8, so as to raise significantly the profile of Africa on international agendas.  Official Development Aid (ODA) and technical assistance should be geared toward strengthening science and technology capacities in African countries. This is an area where progress is called for. 


As all policymakers know, one of the most stubborn issues in science and technology development is the low level of national resources, which are far too insufficient to create critical masses of national expertise in a given area.  Here, sub-regional and regional cooperation and integration are essential as much is to be gained by sharing markets and scientific and technological assets, including in the areas of training, research and demonstration, which cannot always be viable at national levels. 


In the area of regional cooperation and integration ECA provides support for the NEPAD Science and Technology Plan of Action adopted in November 2003 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The plan contains a priority set of flagship programs spanning biotechnology, ICT, energy, materials, manufacturing, space, water, food technology and desertification.  The Plan also has a robust governance structure and management ethos, steered by a Ministerial Council (AMCOST) that reports to NEPAD Heads of State.


ECA is participating in the UN Science and Technology cluster for NEPAD whose agreed areas of focus include technological entrepreneurship in higher education institutions, engineering education, African Green Revolution, UN Biotech Africa, and Centres of Excellence mapping.


ECA is also promoting the African Science Foundation (ASF) – a proposed high-level, content-wide organ of science, technology and innovation policy, review, advice and grant-giving foundation, similar to the US National Science Foundation (NSF). The UN Science and Technology Cluster would help formulate ASF in collaboration with NEPAD, African Academy of Science (AAS) and the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS).