Building capacity in science, technology and innovation (STI), and research and development (R&D) is critical for Africa to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This was highlighted during the 5th National Science Week held in Kenya in May, which was organized by the country's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), and other partners.

One of the key conclusions from the meeting is that Africa’s capacity to compete in the global market depends on its people’s ability to innovate and apply the relevant technology for growth and development.

“A well-coordinated partnership and … intra-African cooperation can provide security, build resilient infrastructure [and] foster innovation.” - Berhanu Abegaz, African Academy of Sciences

Africa is home to dynamic innovators and institutions poised to advance the continent’s research agenda and Africa’s future, NACOSTI director-general Moses Rugutt said during the event. However, he adds that the quantity of research output is worryingly low. Whereas Africa accounts for 15% of the global population, it produces only about 2% of the world’s research output.

Africa should lay the foundation for sustained scientific advocacy efforts to increase international and local African investment in R&D, Rugutt added.

According to Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for Education, in order for Africa to achieve the SDGs, a knowledge-based economy needs to be established first. This requires a huge increase in investment on research.

"Most African countries invest less than 0.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on research", Matiang'i noted. "Kenya is a major regional hub for emerging technologies that support overall socio-economic development, and so the country needs to allocate at least 2% of its GDP to R&D instead of the current 0.3 per cent", .

Local universities and higher learning institutions, Matiang'i further added, should think smart and start by encouraging students to take up technical courses in order to support local innovations.

Berhanu Abegaz, executive director of the Kenya-based African Academy of Sciences, sees science and technology as the tool that could help Africa achieve sustainable development.

He calls upon African governments to take action, prioritise, support and build capacity for local scientific research and innovation in order to shape the continent’s R&D agenda.

“A well-coordinated intra-African cooperation strategy can provide security, build resilient infrastructure [and] foster innovation” notes Abegaz, citing a need for long-term funding strategies to support the overall development of science and technology.

Cover Image by US Army Africa | Published by SciDev.Net Sub-Sahara

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