The Constitutive Act establishing the African Union recognises the ever-growing urgency to collectively address the global social, economic and environmental challenges across our national boundaries. Governments cannot single-handedly tackle these global challenges – such as food and nutrition insecurity;, neglected and poverty-related diseases, climate change and energy, among others – which are exponentially increasing in scope and complexity. We are all deeply convinced that science, technology and innovation can play an essential role in meeting these challenges through large-scale transnational collaborative approaches which pool together technical competencies and available resources. In this regard, within the African Union system, the Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology in the Commission is mandated to drive the development, coordination and implementation of appropriate policies and programmes in education, science and technology.
To deepen and enrich the Union’s education, science and technology innovation policy debate, the AU Assembly created a Specialized Technical Committee in charge of education, science and technology. This committee is designed as a platform for African Ministers in charge of these sectors to periodically deliberate and take collective decisions. Egypt, through their Minister of Scientific Research, is the current chair of this committee.
The status of education, science and technology is rapidly improving across the continent. The African Union recently (in 2014) adopted a people-centred, long-term Agenda 2063, which strives to enable us to remain focused and committed to the ideals envisaged in the context of a rapidly changing world. This Agenda articulates that Africa’s sustained growth, competitiveness and economic transformation will require sustained investment in new technologies and continuous innovation in areas in all development sectors.
To effectively and efficiently contribute to the implementation of the AU Agenda 2063, the AU Assembly adopted three distinct strategies for advancing education and science, technology and innovation: (1) Continental Strategy for Education (CESA-16-25); (2) Continental Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training; and (3) Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024). These strategies will also contribute immensely to achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the creation of long-term economic benefits for the continent and beyond.
The mission of STISA-2024 is to “Accelerate the transition of African countries to innovation-led, and knowledge-based economies”. This will be achieved by improving science, technology and innovation readiness in Africa and implementing specific policies and programmes in these areas which address societal needs in a holistic and sustainable way. STISA-2024 is the first of the ten-year incremental phasing strategies within the broader Agenda 2063.
Through STISA-2024, the Commission is rapidly deploying science, technology and innovation across various socio-economic sectors with a view to fostering social transformation and economic competitiveness. In the first ten years of its implementation, STISA-2024 will focus on addressing six distinct socio-economic priorities namely: (i) Eradicating hunger and ensuring food and nutrition security; (ii) Prevention and control of diseases; (iii) Protection of our space; (iv) Communication (physical and intellectual mobility); (v) Promoting living together and building society; and (vi) Wealth creation.
STISA-2024 is itself innovative. The strategy urges and mobilises all key stakeholders, academics, researchers, innovators, funding bodies, entrepreneurs, private sector, civil society and the public to collectively and inclusively deploy science, technology and innovation in all sectors of our socio-economic development. For example, we should attain sustainable agriculture underpinned by strong R&D interventions if we are to effectively address food insecurity and be able to feed our growing population, which is projected to reach 1.6 billion in 2030. We must accelerate, diversify and continuously improve agricultural production in order to eradicate hunger and food insecurity (STISA-2024 Priority area 1 responding to the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) to improve agricultural research and systems in order to disseminate appropriate new technologies into the Agricultural Sector).
There are four mutually reinforcing pillars which are prerequisite conditions to harness science, technology and innovation. These pillars are (i) building and/or upgrading research infrastructures; (ii) enhancing professional and technical competencies; (iii) promoting entrepreneurship and innovation; and (iv) providing an enabling environment for STI development in the African continent.
The Commission is setting-up and operationalizing key Pan-African STI institutions. These are the African Observatory for Science, Technology and Innovation (AOSTI) office in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organisation (PAIPO), which will be hosted by Tunisia; and the African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), which in the process of being set up. AOSTI serves as a continental repository for STI data and statistics and a source for policy analysis in support of evidence-based policy making in Africa. It provides tools and indicators for strategic thinking, linking STI to sustainable development through STI mapping. The observatory is becoming increasingly important because of its role in planning, foresight and raising awareness of potential policy mixes for a continuous assessment of the developmental targets in support of long-term STI strategies of the member states and regional economic communities. On the other hand, the Commission will convene the first Congress for launching ASRIC as a pan-African platform which mobilises African research excellence and allows the voice of the research community to be heard and their direct involvement in research policy and programming process. ASRIC seeks to enhance collaboration and creation of scientific research and innovation consortia at continental and regional levels in Africa. The Arab Republic of Egypt has expressed strong interest in hosting the Congress.
STISA-2024 defines a new era for research and development in Africa. It calls for a stronger, dynamic and more sustainable research enterprise in all development sectors, capable of translating scientific discoveries into products, services and processes that are required for our sustain
Former President of Tanzania and Global Ambassador for Immunisation.
Executive Director, International Trade Centre