Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
An overview of the implementation of Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA), from its endorsement by the African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology (AMCOST) in 2005 in Dakar, Senegal, up to the aftermath of the AU Summit on Science and Technology in January 2007 is now available. The report is based on the documentation and information available at the NEPAD Office of Science and Technology.
After outlining the political framework and decision-making in the context of AMCOST, the report moves on to consider each flagship programme outlined in the CPA, as well as the complementary activities concerning policy, governance and funding.
The CPA constitutes the framework document for strengthening Africa’s capacities to "harness, apply and develop science and technology in order to eradicate poverty, fight diseases, stem environmental degradation, and improve economic competitiveness".
The role of scientific and technological innovation for poverty alleviation, socio-economic development and integration into the global knowledge economy has been receiving increasing attention internationally.
In order to bridge the knowledge gap and to advance Africa’s social and economic transformation, the African Union (AU) and NEPAD embarked on developing a framework to collectively harness and apply science and technology.
The CPA provides the result of a process that has identified priorities specific to Africa’s development and owned by African states. In this way, it provides a plan not only to strengthen Africa’s science, technology and innovation capabilities, but also to utilise them for poverty reduction and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. The CPA also contributes to the achievement of the NEPAD goals on poverty eradication, accelerated growth and sustainable development.
African states have committed themselves to strengthen science and technology on the continent. The CPA mirrors this commitment in its programme clusters and flagship projects.
These projects are to be implemented through networks of centres of excellence, in order to pool and strengthen scientific capabilities, technical and financial resources, and focus on priorities set by Africa’s regions.
The CPA seeks to advance regional integration, develop science and technology capacity, increase the knowledge flow, and facilitate the application of science and technology to solve problems affecting the regions’ development.
Programme clusters are based on capacity building, knowledge production and technological innovation, endeavouring to involve stakeholders from the levels of political decision-making to the private sector and local end-users, and to encourage public-private and international partnerships.
As a business plan for the period 2005-2010 the CPA is being implemented under the auspices of the African Union and NEPAD, through AMCOST.
CPA programmes and their implementation The programmes contained in the CPA are implemented through regional networks of centres of excellence, consisting of a hub and nodes. They engage existing institutions as centres of excellence in regional networks in order to pool available human and technical resources and strengthen the development of high quality science and technology.
The objectives of these networks are :
To improve quality of and access to infrastructure and facilities ;
Develop further institutional and political regulations ;
Improve the human skill base ;
Obtain political and civil society support ;
Strengthen the capacity of regional institutions ;
Integrate R&D into sectoral programmes ;
Improve the applicability of science and technology towards the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development ; and
Develop innovative funding instruments and build international partnerships.
The network hubs provide a focal point for the integration of R&D expertise and facilities across the region and guide co-operation within the network and with other networks and partners. Furthermore, the hubs coordinate the identification of projects and stimulate interaction with the nodes (staff exchange, training and capacity development, use of expensive equipment etc).
The nodes are designated centres of excellence distributed among the participating countries, with a high reputation in a certain discipline, fulfilling national development priorities. Their interaction with the hub will enable researchers to access equipment and human capital and to become involved in consortium-based research.
Under the auspices of the NEPAD Office of Science and Technology (OST) and AMCOST, the governance of each network is provided by a regional steering committee, consisting of government-delegated representatives and a representative from NEPAD OST to provide policy guidelines and assist the regional networks with mobilising political and financial support.
The CPA comprises five programme clusters for the period 2006-10. Flagship programmes have been identified in regional consultations.
Programme cluster 1 – Biosciences The African Biosciences Initiative has progressed furthest in its implementation. The CPA lists programmes on the conservation and sustainable use of biotechnology ; safe development and application of biotechnology, and Africa’s indigenous knowledge and technologies.
These programmes aim to harness bioscience and technology for the health, agriculture, environment and mining sectors, thus complementing NEPAD programmes in agriculture, health and the environment. In relating network activities to human health, livestock production, environmental remediation and plant/crop biotechnology, the programmes are aligned to poverty alleviation and socio-economic development.
Activities are implemented through four regional networks, whose hubs and nodes were identified through regional consultations in 2004-05.
The first network to be designated was Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BECA). The network hub is located at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya. The Canadian International Development Agency CIDA financed the design of a business plan.
Dr. Bruno Kilunga Kubata has been appointed as network director and a web page has been set up (http://www.biosciencesafrica.org).
Network activities feature research on biotic and abiotic stresses affecting plants and animals ; and agriculturally-related biodiversity. A scholarship programme and a bio-informatics platform have been launched.
The location of the network hub at ILRI Nairobi has proved a good basis to co-operate with regional and international partners in the network’s activities.
The hub of the Southern African Network on Biosciences (SANBIO) is located at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Bioscience Unit in Pretoria, South Africa . It is co-ordinated by Prof. Luke Mumba as network director. (http://www.nepadst.org/sanbio/index.shtml)
Network activities cover plant biotechnology ; livestock production ; human health ; anthropogenic activities on the freshwater ecosystems ; mushroom production ; indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) ; and gene banking facilities.
The flagship project "Scientifically validated, affordable remedies for the treatment of opportunistic infections (OI) for people living with HIV/AIDS", which also draws on expertise of traditional healers, began in 2006 with a start-up fund from South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST).
The network now has nodes for the flagship programme for fisheries (University of Malawi) and mushroom farming (University of Namibia), with a further node being envisaged for indigenous knowledge documentation (University of the North West, South Africa). A scholarship programme for building capacity in modern biotechnology and informatics is envisaged, to be based at the CSIR and to be supported by a group of foundations and donors.
The Western African Biosciences Network (WABNET) is also taking shape. The network hub in Dakar, Senegal, is based at the Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA) and its centres — CERAAS (regional centre for improvement of plant adaptation to drought) and LNERV (Laboratoire national d’élevage et de recherches vétérinaries) — are already experienced in international co-operation in crop, animal and environment sciences.
The network director, Prof. Diran Makinde, took up his post in March 2007. The network is currently identifying international and private sector partners.
The hub and secretariat of the Northern African Biosciences Network (NABNET) are hosted by the National Research Centre (NRC) in Cairo, Egypt. A business plan is being developed, and a network coordinator has been appointed.
Network activities feature the flagship programme "Improving knowledge of genetic diversity : from molecular tools to biotechnology for innovation and better life quality".
Thus, all hubs have been set up and have appointed directors, and are now moving from design to implementation stage. Inter-network engagement is envisaged, to be co-ordinated by the network directors.
In addition to biosciences networks, cross-cutting activities have been supported through the AMCOST forum, including African strategies for bio-safety and for biotechnology.
Programme cluster 2 – Energy, Water, Desertification "Building a sustainable energy base" comprises programmes seeking to improve the access to a wider range of sustainable energy sources and technologies. This is envisaged through the creation of an African databank on environmentally sound energy research and technologies (to be accessible to African policy makers) ; and through research and development of bio-energy technologies and other renewable energy sources.
For this purpose, an African Energy Research and Innovation Network (AERI) has been proposed. Activities to develop criteria and guidelines to identify and designate centres of excellence, to formulate a business plan and network agreements are still ongoing.
With regard to the programmes on "securing and sustaining water", the CPA envisages activities for a scientific assessment of Africa’s water resources and systems ; research and technologies to assess and monitor water-related disasters ; and knowledge and technologies to improve water quality and quantity.
A workshop in November 2004 started to develop projects and identify centres of excellence for their implementation, an undertaking continued by an experts workshop in Nairobi (May 2005) with support from UNESCO, UNEP and the French Institute for Research on Development (IRD).
The workshop proposed a task force to draft a business plan. The task team presented its first report in Cairo in November 2006, which was endorsed by AMCOST.
In addition to building a knowledge base and disseminating information on water science and technology, the report identified priorities in research and monitoring of water-related disasters, desalination technologies, eutrophication and water quality. It developed a set of criteria and indicators to identify centres of excellence, as well as suggestions for their governance and financing.
The inter-ministerial dialogue between AMCOST and the Ministerial Conference on Water (AMCOW) was taken further by a meeting in Cairo which provided the political authorisation for an African network of centres of excellence in water sciences and technology.
The task team’s report suggested that an inter-ministerial committee representing AMCOST and AMCOW should oversee the network, and a trust fund at the African Development Bank’s African Water Facility should provide a financing instrument. A business plan for 2007-12 is being finalised by NEPAD OST.
Programme cluster 3 – Material Sciences, Manufacturing, Laser, Post-harvest Technologies The third cluster proposes four programmes : building Africa’s capacity for material science, which has a strong component on postgraduate training in collaboration with the African Materials Research Society ; building engineering capacity for manufacturing with a focus on university-industry partnerships ; strengthening the African Laser Centre (ALC) ; and technologies to reduce post harvest food loss.
So far, only the third programme has been developed, for which the African Laser Centre constitutes a well-developed basis network. The secretariat to be based at the CSIR, Pretoria, is currently preparing a report to submit to the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC).
Programme cluster 4 – ICT, Space Sciences In order to strengthen the potential of innovation and institutional capacity in information and communication technology (ICT) for development in Africa, a programme will be implemented through the African Virtual Open Initiative and Resource (AVOIR) project, based at South Africa’s University of the Western Cape (UWC) and comprising software innovation nodes in African universities in Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
This network is expected to link with existing initiatives, for example those of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, and consider both policy issues and R&D. Two flagship projects are harnessing and developing software for e-learning and developing capacity for e-health.
As regards the network to be built around an African Institute of Space Science (AISS), a concept is currently under discussion by a variety of stakeholders. Research and applications in space science and technology to address development needs are being presented in a report of an inter-governmental experts’ committee.
Programme cluster 5 – Mathematical Sciences The African Mathematical Institutes Network (AMI-Net) was formally launched in October 2005 to work with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town, South Africa (http://www.aims.ac.za).
The AIMS, established in 2003, is acting as a Pan-African centre, running intensive courses, workshops and a visitors programme. It works in cooperation with other regional centres and the regional offices of the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI). The envisaged network AMI-Net seeks to connect and strengthen such centres.
It is planned to develop three new nodes annually until 2010. Through excellent postgraduate courses, these will contribute to creating a critical mass of researchers with advanced quantitative research skills, many of whom will proceed to research projects in other NEPAD flagship programmes.
A call for proposals for potential nodes has been issued and the process of identifying and designating centres is under way.
Complementary initiatives In addition to these flagship areas, the CPA includes complementary programmes which focus on policy conditions, innovation mechanism, governance and finance.
Among these, the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) has been taking shape since the first NEPAD/AMCOST Steering Committee in November 2003 endorsed the compilation of indicators.
These indicators will serve to evaluate the performance of centres of excellence as well as to appraise national systems of innovation and provide guidelines for policy-making.
The overall objective of this programme is to build Africa’s capacity to develop and use STI indicators. Two projects have been included in the CPA : development and adoption of African common science, technology and innovation indicators and establishing an African STI observatory (AOSTI). The proposed observatory is envisaged to produce the African Innovation Outlook, and provide capacity building.
Other complementary programmes include building a common African strategy for biotechnology, and building public understanding of science and technology.
Overall budget and financing issues were also addressed by an AMCOST meeting in Cairo in November 2006 and subsequently the AU Summit, where African states repeated their commitment to increase funding for science and technology and reach the 1% GDP target by 2010.
Comment : outlook and challenges Less than two years after the endorsement of CPA by AMCOST, several programmes and networks are well under way. It has proved a wise decision to begin with the implementation of a small number of programmes.
Apart from unresolved legal, governance and finance issues, the CPA presents a new form for conducting R&D in Africa, and the experience gained in one or two flagship projects will prove valuable to the implementation of further programmes.
This relates not only to the constitution of a regional forum of stakeholders, the development of a selection process based on a set of indicators, or the creation of a network mechanism to provide an efficient sharing of knowledge and capabilities ; it also touches such issues as policy conditions, private sector involvement, capacity building, science communications, partnership agreements, and, most important of all, the applicability of the results of research and their impact on poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
For this reason, in order to demonstrate the potential of the new modalities and priorities of research introduced by the CPA, it will be vital to get networks running and producing quick results. The Biosciences Initiative might prove an excellent model.
The Consolidated Plan of Action should be regarded as a "living document" setting the framework for a comprehensive learning process for researchers, policymakers and all stakeholders involved in science and technology. Through regional consultations, priorities will be identified and new aspects introduced into the framework.
In order to make the implementation of the CPA a success and ensure its contribution to sustainable development and the social and economic transformation of Africa, several issues need to be addressed :
Policy issues need to be resolved in the forum of AMCOST and on the regional and national level.
The linkage of science, technology and innovation to national development strategies needs to be strengthened and African countries encouraged by the AU and NEPAD to keep their commitment to strengthen R&D and implement the CPA.
Regional Economic Communities (RECs) need to get involved and "own" the networks to a greater extent than before, while the geographical distribution of centres of excellence should ensure – without compromising scientific excellence – an equal proportion of involvement of African states.
National investment in research and development needs to be encouraged by RECs, regional development banks, NEPAD and the AU, while incentives to link national activities to relevant flagship programmes should be provided.
This leads to the point of communication and stakeholder involvement. A communication strategy has been outlined in the CPA, which should be considered and included at every level of the implementation phase.
The CPA networks will need to find ways in which to attract a far greater private sector involvement and public-private partnership than they have hitherto achieved ; strong outreach programmes are essential for this.
Communication about the crucial role of science and technology for development must be intensified both with the end-users and beneficiaries of the programmes and with the political decision-makers.
Executive workshops, capacity-building programmes in science and technology policy, strengthening of science education at school and at university level need to be undertaken.
The link between "lab and land", between research and its applicability for the poor will prove the ultimate factor deciding on the success of the programmes and the implication for Africa’s development.
The set-up of CPA initiatives provides a unique opportunity to attract international support : linked to the MDG and sustainable development goals, and implemented through centres of excellence, it could even become a tool for turning brain drain into a brain circulation beneficial to Africa’s development.
The flagships provide new opportunities for international partnerships. While North-South partnerships will remain important, the South-South dialogue needs to be intensified to open up chances for new partnerships.
In order to exploit this potential, African policymakers and stakeholders need to own the CPA, and capacities for science, technology and innovation policies need to be strengthened. Communication with NGOs, civil society and the Diaspora is equally important.
This process cannot be concluded in the space of the five years comprised by the CPA, but it will need to be launched parallel to the thematic flagships in order to ensure the sustainability and impact of the initiatives.
These risks have been identified by the CPA stakeholders, and efforts are being taken to address them. As challenges in a learning process for harnessing science and technology for Africa’s development, the responses and proposals developed by AMCOST and the networks could have an impact and model function reaching beyond the CPA to the establishment of an African innovation system. Source : NEPAD, 2 novembre 2007