Africa urged to invest in science, technology and innovation

Africa can build a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable future if countries invest in science, technology and innovation. These are sentiments echoed by African leaders, representatives and experts at the opening of the two-day Sixth African Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Science, innovation and technology, they say, are crucial for the continent’s transformation in agriculture, industry and poverty reduction.

Held ahead of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, the STI Forum is a pre-event organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the African Union Commission and other partners under the theme: “Effective delivery of innovative scientific and technological solutions to strengthen the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 and eradicate poverty in Africa.”

Belete Molla, Minister of Technology and Innovation of Ethiopia, said promoting innovation in key sectors such as agriculture, clean energy and healthcare can create jobs, improve living standards and lift millions of people out of poverty in Africa.

He said Ethiopia’s commitment to improving the agricultural sector and ensuring food security is a good example that should be emulated by other countries in Africa.

“Ethiopia has developed a roadmap for food system transformation and launched several initiatives aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, achieving self-sufficiency and combating climate change. These initiatives include improving access to fertilizers, seeds and technologies for farmers,” he said.

Moreover, Mr. Molla said that Ethiopia has not only created a roadmap for food system transformation, but has also actively implemented numerous initiatives. These initiatives prioritize increasing agricultural resilience, achieving food self-sufficiency and combating climate change.

The country has recently changed its science and technology policy, placing a strong emphasis on promoting innovation and harnessing the potential of emerging technologies. The country has also adopted a national digital transformation strategy called ‘Digital Ethiopia 2025’.

For his part, Antonio Pedro, Deputy Executive Secretary for Program Support at the ECA, said Africa must invest in human capital development, research and development (R&D) and in learning to produce, sell and use emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and genomics . that transform every aspect of life.

“Technology should promote the well-being of the millions of households, farmers, fishermen and many others who still use basic tools to lift themselves out of extreme poverty,” said Mr. Pedro.

“Science and technology can play an important role in increasing the efficiency of service delivery to the poor, monitoring living conditions, predicting impending crises in crowded or remote areas, and informing decision-making during crises,” the statement said. Mr Pedro.

According to him, the STI Forum is specifically designed to promote cooperation, the dissemination of technology and innovation and the scale-up of policy and operational efforts to accelerate the contribution of science, technology and innovation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

According to the Executive Secretary of the ECA, the STI Forum has over the years become a leading platform for addressing the opportunities and challenges that science, technology and innovation present for fostering strategic partnerships and the implementation of scalable and innovative solutions.

He noted that the Forum launched the Alliance of Entrepreneurial Universities in Africa in 2022. The Alliance has since encouraged universities and their 19 million students in Africa to foster start-ups aimed at creating 100 million jobs and generating $200 billion in revenue in ten years (i.e. by 2033).

Similarly, in 2023, the continental problem-solving and innovation platform called Origin was launched in Niamey, Niger, as the first Origin Research and Innovation Hub for East Africa at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT) in Kenya. It has registered hundreds of problem solvers, has its own physical space, staff and partners from the private and public sectors.

“ECA’s coding camps for girls and women are an example of how we can give young women the opportunity to become the next tech entrepreneurs and innovators. We have trained two thousand young girls and women so far. However, to spark transformative change, we must repeat these examples again and again across the continent,” said Mr. Pedro

Lidia Arthur Brito, UNESCO Deputy Director General for Natural Sciences, said international cooperation in science is an ideal way to promote peace and sustainable development.

“By investing in science and promoting innovation, African societies can empower youth to become not only the engines of economic growth and employment, but also the engines of solutions to pressing environmental challenges,” said Brito. for local communities it realizes its full potential for socio-economic development.

She underlined a critical challenge – financial sustainability – which she said is impacting many African technology hubs. “They rely on subsidies from development partners and international donors to survive, in the virtual absence of local business angels and seed capital.”

Javier Pérez, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to the African Union and ECA, said science and technology promote development in societies. When young people and women are given the opportunity to become the next technology entrepreneurs and innovators, they are likely to create transformational change.

“The European Union is investing €279 million in Africa for research and innovation in support of both the SDGs and Agenda 2063 for Africa,” said Mr Perez.

The African Science, Technology and Innovation Forum was established by the Conference of Ministers, in its resolution 961 (LI) of 15 May 2018, to take all steps necessary to establish a regular multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation organize innovation as input into the work of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development.

Source: ECA