There are many humanitarian issues at play across the continent. Despite challenges such as droughts, famine and infectious diseases, the African Union (AU) recognised the need to invest in science as critical to finding solutions to those very same problems. In March 2010, African Ministers of Science met in Egypt where they declared 2011 – 2020 the ‘Decade for Science in Africa’. The intention of this programme is to keep science and technology at the forefront of the continent’s political agenda. Specifically, the meeting stated that the decision was made in recognition of ‘the challenges that AU member states are facing in harnessing science and technology for socio-economic development and the need to sensitise the African Community to engage the AU leaders in science and technology.
The African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) bureau was appointed the implementing agency for the initiative, with the assistance of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad). Under the leadership of Egypt as chair and South Africa as co-chair, the AMCOST Bureau has contributed as follows:
As part of the African Decade of Science and Technology, the AU has initiated the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024. This strategy’s vision of the future of Africa visualises:
In terms of priority areas, the strategy will focus on developing policies and programmes to enhance access to basic health, education and employable skills underpinned by investment in science, research and innovation. The expected output is to promote strategic investments and policies in science, research and innovation to improve Africa’s global competitiveness. The Strategy further proposes the following interventions for the Science, Technology and Innovation programme, namely:
The strategic direction proposed by the strategy 2014 – 2024 are based on three pillars: 1) Build infrastructure base for innovation led development; 2) Enhance technical competence, and; 3) Stimulation of Entrepreneurship.
1) Build Infrastructure, base for innovation led development
2) Enhance technical competence
3) Stimulation of Entrepreneurship
With the focus on science and technology through the declaration of the African Decade of Science and Technology, supported by the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy 2014 – 2024, African states should create an environment that will stimulate innovation, as well as develop and strengthen the sciences across levels and sectors. The growth potential for such is high in Africa. It will be even more relevant if African scientists and innovators find local solutions to local problems. In this way, there will be greater interest and equity by Africans in the development and implementation of solutions to humanitarian issues on the continent. This sentiment is echoed by the founder of the Africa Innovation Foundation Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, who said: ‘It’s the only way to address or gain real contact with the population. If one understands what the population needs in a very innovative way and how to resolve the problems of these needs, you are going to create jobs, which I believe is what Africa needs.’ He further stated that when Africans come up with their own self-sustainable innovations, it ‘creates a spirit of belief, gives back pride, and it gives hope that African innovation is possible.’