Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
An appeal to African governments to commit more resources to the development and application of science, technology and innovations for the betterment of Africa was made by Uganda’s Minister of State for Industry, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, while officiating at an international workshop on science, technology and innovations for public health in Africa, held in Entebbe, Uganda, on 23-24 July 2007.
Only science, technology and innovations development and application would help fight diseases and develop Africa, he said.
“Since the beginning of civilisation, science and technology has been at the forefront of socio-economic development. The Millennium Development Goals and Africa’s economic development can therefore only be achieved through the application of science and technology,” the Minister said.
“To exploit what science can offer, we need to build and sustain scientific capacity ; nurture and maintain a critical mass of highly qualified and innovative scientists ; create centres of excellence and leadership and promote public understanding of science and technology.
“We also need to publicise the benefits of science and technology innovations and share experiences that guide policymakers on what works and doesn’t work.
“We should also promote scientific and technological cooperation within Africa and I appeal to African governments and developed countries to channel support to Africa’s science, technology and innovations”.
The Minister also stressed the need to recognise Africans in the diaspora as key actors in development and to mobilise them to change the brain drain into brain circulation for the development of Africa.
NEPAD role in science and technology action plan
Organised by the NEPAD Office of Science and Technology (NEPAD OS&T), in collaboration with the Advocates Coalition for Environment and Development (ACODE), the Entebbe workshop was aimed at identifying ways and means of strengthening the capacities of African countries to apply science, technology and innovation to fight diseases and improve public health.
The NEPAD OS&T is the designated technical and administrative secretariat for the implementation of Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA). Its mandate is to coordinate the implementation of the CPA and provide technical backstopping to the African Union Commission and the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST).
The overall goals of the CPA are to enable Africa to harness and apply science, technology and related innovations to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development and to ensure that Africa contributes to the global pool of scientific knowledge and technological innovations.
Said Dr John Mugabe, the Director of NEPAD OS&T : “We are reflecting on linkages between science, technology and innovations in health. We want African countries to focus on health innovation systems and use evidence-based analyses, discussions and conclusions to inform policymakers on how to tackle Africa’s health challenges. We intend to create an African research and innovation programme to address the public health challenges”.
The workshop also explored practical measures for harmonising regulations for pharmaceuticals and facilitating acceleration of the transfer of health-related technologies and innovations. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) were singled out as a major hindrance to accessing drugs for the treatment or cure of most of Africa’s diseases.
Problem of intellectual property rights Godber Tumushabe, Executive Director of ACODE, said there was proof that in spite of the dramatic advances made by the pharmaceutical industry in developing new drugs and diagnostic technologies, the disease burden in Africa showed no signs of abating, partly because of IPR issues.
“Intellectual property rights are considered to be partly responsible for the current problems of access to critical health innovations”, he said.
“The IPR issues affect procurement, access and diffusion of critical health innovations including medicine and diagnostic technologies. For instance even where the cost of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) has fallen sharply, the majority of the sick still can’t access these medicines.
“We should address health inequality issues due to IPR and other causes and come up with solutions that lead to health equity for our people”.
The workshop designed and agreed on a programme of work on how to improve the application of science, technology and innovation to fight diseases in Africa and to conduct evidence-based studies to inform policymakers of the African Union.
“Briefly, we agreed to strengthen African universities through their platforms and associations so that they play an important role in health innovations and research. We shall work with regional university councils such as the East African Universities Council, on strategies in thematic areas”, said Dr John Mugabe.
“We shall also encourage collective drug purchasing to reduce costs, carry out diagnostic studies on IPRs, and harmonise medicines regulations using the Regional Economic Communities”, he concluded.
Recommendations from the workshop will be submitted to the third conference of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology in November 2007.
The workshop brought together 30 participants representing government agencies, international organisations and major research institutes engaged in the health sector from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda and the United Kingdom. Source : nepad, july 30, 2007