Daring Africa To Innovate - Accelerating Africa's Transition To Knowledge and Green Economies
After decades of neglect, science, technology and innovation policy is working its way into development strategy and policy. While few developing countries, especially in Africa, can boast of national science and technology advisors, national innovation councils, national science medals or laureates, science diplomacy, science envoys or science ‘Attaches’, a number of African countries are moving to ‘mainstream’ science, technology and innovation into their national development strategies, visions and policies. At the continental level, the African Union’s (AU) Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) places science, technology and innovation firmly at the centre of Africa’s social and economic development.
As a pioneering research, policy analysis and capacity strengthening institution on harnessing applications of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in Africa, ACTS warmly embraces the inclusion of science, technology and innovation into the African development agenda. There is increasing consensus among economists that at least half, if not more, of the economic growth in advanced countries is directly attributable to science, technology and innovation. It is now widely acknowledged that knowledge or technology-intensive sectors are growing faster than other sectors. For African countries interested in raising their long term rate of growth, this requires a structural shift from a near exclusive focus on ‘appropriate technologies’ and low technology intensive sectors into advanced technology or knowledge intensive sectors including but not limited to the following:
- Information and communications technologies (ICTs)
- Biotechnologies and synthetic biology,
- Nuclear technologies
- Space technologies
- Materials technologies
Applications of these technologies and innovations could have far reaching impacts on some of Africa’s long running development challenges: agricultural productivity, food and nutrition security; water security; access to energy; public health, disaster risk preparedness and resilience; climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Applications of information and communication technologies (i.e. mobile telephony and the internet) have already revolutionized the African economy in ways that few people thought possible a decade ago: enhancing access to financial services, agricultural market information, public health, governance (i.e. e-government) and disaster risk preparedness. Applications of biotechnologies, nuclear, space, materials and Nano technologies could have similarly significant impacts on Africa’s development. Comparative advantage, even in the developing world, has shifted from primary resources and unskilled labour to knowledge and skill intensive manufactured products and services. Even the so called ‘primary resources sector’, where Africa has long had a comparative advantage, is increasingly becoming highly knowledge intensive and innovative. Africa must transition towards knowledge and technology intensive activities or risk technological stagnation, poverty and environmental degradation in a low skill, low growth, trap. ACTS is determined to facilitate Africa’s transition into a knowledge based economy.
Throughout 2014, ACTS will launch a series of exciting Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Initiatives aimed at facilitating Africa’s transition into knowledge based green economies. These will include: a New Strategic Plan (2014-2018) - Accelerating Africa’s Transition to Knowledge and Green Economies; High Level STI Policy Dialogues; Quarterly Public Seminars; STI Policy Fellowships and Master Classes; STI Research Grants, PhD Studentships and Internships; and STI Training and Capacity Building Programmes.
ACTS provides STI policy options for Africa’s development through world class research, policy analysis, capacity strengthening and outreach. ACTS was the first to organize an international conference to discuss options that African countries could adopt to mitigate the impacts of climate change. ACTS also played a major role in the negotiations for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with particular reference to access to genetic resources and benefits sharing; technology transfer; traditional knowledge and intellectual property protection. Over the last quarter century, ACTS’ work has influenced patent (i.e. industrial property) legislation and policy (Kenya); environmental impact assessment standards (Eastern and Southern Africa); bio-energy and biofuels policy (Kenya, West Africa); agricultural policy, bio-diplomacy, biotechnology and biosafety (Africa-wide). The Centre has also provided training in science and technology policy for sustainable development to hundreds of students and policy makers across the continent.
The New Strategic Plan 2014-2018 continues ACTS’ bold tradition of pioneering high quality research, policy analysis and dialogue, and capacity building on contemporary issues in African development. The New Strategic Plan is ambitious but no more than contemporary Africa’s development agenda. We believe that the new Strategy furthers our vision of a knowledge based African society, anchored in sustainable and diversified livelihoods, human welfare, ecosystem integrity and wellbeing.
I would like to thank all our partners and collaborators - governments, universities, the private sector, multilateral and bilateral development partners, civil society organizations, communities and individuals - for being so supportive of ACTS’s work over the last quarter century. I look forward to working with all our partners, collaborators and stakeholders to ensure that ACTS continues its Mission of strengthening capacity and policies of African countries and institutions to harness science, technology and innovation for sustainable development.
Thank you and welcome!
Dr. Cosmas Milton Obote Ochieng
(BA Hons. Kenyatta; MPhil. Cantab; DPhil. Oxon)
Former Executive Director