Africa Leaders Boost Sciences

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The African Union summit of Heads of States and Governments this month in Addis Ababa offers a unique opportunity to focus on the role of science and technology in providing solutions to a myriad of problems facing the continent.

Science, technology and research are critical in resolving food security problems, disease control, access to clean water and environmental protection among other important issues.

African scientists and policy makers have for years made important contributions in the field of science and technology but their efforts had gone to waste due to lack of financial support and political will.
Africa has emerged as a major loser in the field of science as it has persistently failed to harness its scientific talent for socio-economic development.

African scientists who met in Egypt last October shared experiences, ideas and put forward recommendations for adoption at the AU summit on science and technology.

African scientists pushed African ministers of science to call on the head of states to create a Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization and to designate 2007 as a year for science, technology and innovation in Africa.

They are also calling African leaders to allocate at least one percent of each country's GDP towards promoting research and development and developing innovative strategies that can spur economic growth on the continent.

Among other issues that African scientists and policy makers have recommended to the summit in general are that: for the development of Africa, there should be massive investment in Science and Technology; governments in Africa should support national academies of science to enable them to contribute to the development of the respective countries; competent regional research centers should be set up throughout Africa; universities and institutions of higher learning in Africa should be given greater support for manpower development; mass media should be encouraged to promote the popularization of science and technology; governments of the various countries of the continent should address and redress the brain drain of scientific personnel and induce those in the Diaspora to return; governments in Africa should invest heavily on research and development of vaccines and new drugs based on biodiversity and indigenous knowledge; and, governments should support the roll out of currently used antiretroviral drugs until more effective and cheaper drugs are found.

"This is a golden opportunity for establishing a knowledge-based African society," Hassan Abdel Aal Moawad, a professor of microbial biotechnology at Cairo's National Research Centre in Egypt, said.

Tsiko is The Black Star News's Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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