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Research Network to boost development in Africa Planned


A new research and capacity building hub focusing on sustainable development issues in Africa will be established by mid this year, a meeting has heard.  The STEPS Africa Sustainability Hub, which was announced during a meeting held in Kenya last year (6 November), aims to create a network of African researchers with interest in sustainable development. 

David Ockwell, the deputy executive director of Social, Technical and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre, which is located in the UK-based Institute of Development Studies, said the hub will help Africans address critical issues of development through research and capacity building.

“This will be a research network that will look at pro-poor pathways to low carbon development and energy transitions that meet the needs of the poor,” Ockwell noted, adding that the hub will be one of its kind in Africa.

Cosmas Ochieng’, executive director of Kenya-based Africa Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), which is partnering the STEPS Centre in establishing the network, toldSciDev.Net: “We are targeting research institutions such as universities, policy-based organisations and the private sector to collect information on issues to be addressed by the hub. “The plan is that STEPS Africa Sustainability Hub will mobilise its own resources from conventional development partners as well as from private sector actors.” 

He told SciDev.Net that ACTS will serve as the secretariat to coordinate stakeholders’ information that will define critical problems to be tackled when it is launched by June this year, noting that they hope to run the centre for at least 10 years.

Researchers and policymakers from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda present at the meeting welcomed the initiative, saying it was timely and would help address the post-2015 development agenda, identifying the need for more energy in Africa’s fastest-growing economies and the need to address inequalities in the continent.

Nicholas Ozor, the executive director, African Technology Policy Studies Network in Kenya, says the hub will be successful only if it is driven by the demands of Africans.

“It should be a participatory initiative that allows Africa’s input in terms of needs,” Ozor said, adding that key stakeholders should be in the value chain as this will lead to a sustainable initiative.

According to Ozor, Africa needs energy in industries to aid innovations and technological developments, an area that he says the hub should focus on.

“The challenge to this initiative will be the diversity in terms of the demands of various stakeholders involved, which could take long to agree on top priorities for the hub,” Ozor cautions, as he called for African governments and the African Union to buy into the hub and support it with policy and strategic plans to make it sustainable.