Africa’s development landscape is changing. Its economy has recorded an increase in the productivity of investment in the first decade of the 21st century attributed to improved infrastructure, better access to technology, and policy reforms that have reduced transaction costs linked to production, distribution and trade. Relatively good economic growth in many countries over the last decade; a ‘commodity boom’; growing foreign direct investment (FDI); increasing discovery and exploitation of natural resources; a growing middle class and changing demographics (particularly the youth bulge); the rise of China and other emerging economies; changing development paradigms; globalization and; increasing use of modern technology, especially, information and communication technologies (ICTs), has occasioned rare Afro-optimism: scholarly and populist discourses on ‘Africa Rising’– potentially unique opportunities for structural transformation of the continent in the 21st century.
Yet this Afro-optimism must be tempered by caution. In spite of its recent GDP growth rates, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the most likely region to miss the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) of reducing by half extreme hunger and poverty by 2015. It is also the most vulnerable region to the impacts of climate change. The claimed economic growth creates few employment opportunities for the approximately 11 Million youth who join the labour market each year. Additionally, Africa has 10 per cent of world’s oil reserves, 40 per cent of gold reserves, and 80-90 per cent of chromium and platinum group metals and 60 per cent of the world’s arable land yet to be cultivated. With serious mineral exploration and development only now picking up speed, the vast potential of the continent’s natural resources is yet to be realized. The major development challenges facing Africa—ensuring food security, clean water, sustainable energy access, adapting to and mitigating climate change, fighting infectious diseases, and conserving biodiversity, creating employment for a growing youth population —require a diversification and structural transformation from low technology and low knowledge intensive sectors to high technology and high knowledge intensive sectors.
The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) is a Nairobi-based, non-partisan, non-profit, international development policy think tank, working on issues of science, technology, innovation, economic development, and environmental change. Founded in 1988, ACTS is mandated to pursue policy oriented research towards strengthening the capacity of African countries and institutions to harness science and technology for sustainable development. ACTS’ vision is a knowledge-based African continent of sustainable and diversified livelihoods, economic, social, and environmental progress, equity, and sustainability. ACTS’ mission is to enlarge the policy choices for sustainable development in Africa. We inform, influence, broker, leverage, and build capacity for inclusive policy, organizational, institutional, and technological change for economic, social, and environmental sustainability in Africa.
ACTS New Strategic Plan 2014-2018: Accelerating Africa’s Transition to Inclusive Knowledge and Green Economies, taps into the Afro-optimism to transform the African continent and reinforces ACTS’ prominent role in pioneering high quality research, policy analysis and dialogue, and capacity strengthening on contemporary issues in African development. The New Strategic Plan seeks to unlock Africa’s potential for inclusive growth by catalysing investments, policy, institutional and organizational incentives in knowledge based and green economies through five programme areas: -
- Inclusive Bio economy aiming at an African economy where bio resources, bio sciences, and biotechnologies contribute a significant share of economic output particularly from agriculture, food, water, and renewable energy sectors.
- Information Economy aiming at an African economy in which knowledge is the primary raw material and source of value drawn from the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), development of ICT infrastructures including Open and Big Data (i.e. the Data Revolution).
- Climate Resilient Economies aiming at an African economy that has transitioned from a state of vulnerability to a state of resilience to the impacts of climate change through: climate change adaptation and mitigation; disaster risk preparedness; climate resilient infrastructure; and low carbon development.
- Responsible Natural Resource Economies in Africa characterized by responsible extractive industries; the triple bottom line (people, planet and profits); sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity resources; natural capital accounting and ecosystem valuation.
- Gender, Youth and Inclusive Development aiming at an African economy that recognizes the significant role of women, youth and other marginalized or vulnerable groups in harnessing science, technology and innovation for economic development and sustainability in Africa.