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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran 14 Science, Technology, and Innovation in the Knowledge Economy: Prospects for Cooperation OUSMANE KANE African Regional Centre for Technology Scientific knowledge and its proper use have always been critical ingredients for economic performance and competitiveness. Today, the concept of a knowledge economy arising from the twin forces of globalization and technological progress, results in a closer linkage among science, technology, and innovation. Therefore, the knowledge economy requires proper knowledge management, which is a multidimensional process involving context, culture, content, mechanisms, infrastructure, and policy. It must address the dynamics of continuous change at the global, country, sector, and company levels. This raises many possibilities for enhancing growth and competitiveness by increasing productivity in all sectors of the economy and by adding value to local raw materials and natural resources. In this regard, the knowledge economy has brought revolutionary changes to virtually all markets and sectors, but at the same time it also carries the risks of marginalization for countries, firms, or organizations that do not keep up with those rapid changes. A successful knowledge economy requires a strong economic and institutional framework, a well-educated and skilled
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran population, an efficient innovation system, and a dynamic information and communication infrastructure. Therefore, governments should lay the groundwork to enhance Africa’s ability to seriously increase its scientific and technological potential, to resolutely embark on the knowledge economy, to promote sustainable development, and to become a key partner in global economy and trade. The real wealth of any country is its people; and the core of any country’s development process has always been knowledge, particularly in the fields of science and technology. In this regard, the fundamental facilitator of the knowledge economy is education, generally associated with a higher level of teaching and research. They are key factors for creating, sharing, disseminating, and effectively using knowledge for problem solving and innovation. Africa’s overall development, like in any region of the world, should be based on the tripartite elements—Economy-Energy-Environment—called the E3 method of sustainable development. But other methods are also important. Currently, development in many advanced countries is mostly based on knowledge instead of raw materials and natural resources. Due to strong innovative systems, rapid advances in new and emerging technologies, such as information and communication technology (ICT), biotechnology, nanotechnology, and genomics are dramatically affecting all economic, social, administrative and cultural activities. The pervasive technological revolution resulting from these advances is now disrupting all kinds of relationships, transactions, and production systems of goods and services. As a consequence of the ICT explosion that has led to worldwide interdependency and connectivity, globalization and competition have drastically increased and are leading to extensive shifts in world trade patterns and economic relations. Now, even corporate research and development are internationalized. Countries’ or companies’ competitiveness depends, more than ever, on their ability to access, adapt, utilize, and master scientific and technological knowledge for a continuous innovation process.
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran In this worldwide context, Africa should move away from its current position of passive technology spectator and urgently embark on a vigorous technology innovation strategy, at both the national and regional levels. Education and research are critical sectors where performance directly affects and even determines the quality and magnitude of Africa’s development. They are the most important means we have at our disposal to develop human resources and impart appropriate skills, knowledge, and attitudes. As stated by the African Union in 2006 education forms the basis for developing innovation, science, and technology in order to harness our resources, industrialize, and participate in the global knowledge economy. it is also the means by which Africa will entrench a culture of peace, gender equality, and positive African values research is critical for providing fundamental data on education in each country as well as essential information about instructional practice in school classrooms teacher education institutions should be engaged in research of a high order, as well as training teachers to do action research within their own teaching environments Investing in human capital resources, research and development, and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship should be taken into due consideration through the establishment of trust and strong partnerships among all key stakeholders. These include government policy makers, higher education and research communities, production entrepreneurs, funding agencies, and consumer associations. Although all dimensions, disciplines, and sectors are of great importance, we will mostly focus on science and technology issues. The new economic world order is mainly of a scientific and technological nature. However, the faculties of science and engineering at African universities register a small number of students —fewer than 30 percent of the total in many cases.
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran Therefore, we will consider the prospects of partnerships, in particular within South-South cooperation, in the context of science, technology, and innovation. We need to reverse the situation whereby Africa is the region that spends the smallest percentage of available funds on science and technology. As a consequence, the number of scientists and engineers is very small. MAJOR CHALLENGES FOR AFRICA Many resolutions have been adopted in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU), on the importance of science and technology as prime movers of the continent’s socioeconomic development. Major continental initiatives such as the Lagos Plan of Action (Organisation of African Unity, 1980) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development1 have made wide provisions for science and technology. However, there is still much to do for their implementation and translation into concrete programs of significant impact. As a consequence, Africa faces a number of paradoxes, being a continent with significant manpower and rich natural resources (water, minerals, petroleum, and biodiversity) but with the poorest people. It is confronted with several scourges such as unemployment, hunger, malnutrition, serious disease, lack of access to good education, poor leadership, crumbling infrastructure, and lack of energy and potable water. This situation is due in part to lack of strong innovative science and technology strategies with clear vision, firm commitment, and strong political will and leadership. These strategies should be endowed with the required resources, whether human, physical, or financial, and should be fully articulated in national socioeconomic development plans. To break this vicious cycle and to become a region engaged in overall sustainable development and a respected partner in the global economy, Africa must establish an enabling environment 1 See www.nepad.org/.
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran characterized by some fundamental parameters. Among those parameters are peace, a democratic and stable political system, good governance, social justice, and security of both people and goods together with a cautions application of scientific and technological achievements in the development process. Also, the continent is confronted with many challenges, including the following: weak strategies for technology innovation and transfer Inadequate higher education and research systems with little innovative and inventive potential, a large brain drain (which must now be converted into brain gain), and the lack of national technological higher education, research, and innovation systems Lack of reliable data on scientific and technical potential (human resources, institutions, programs) Prevalence of micro-nationalism, resulting in rivalries instead of cooperation and integration based on comparative advantages Communication barriers (poor infrastructure, lack of telecommunications, languages, visa problems, cost of travels) Harmonization of a number of initiatives aiming at the promotion of science and technology throughout the continent As stated by the AU in its Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015) (African Union, 2006), Africa entered the Millennium with severe education challenges at every level. To cope with these challenges, conferences of the Ministers of Education have reiterated the need to increase access to education, improve quality and relevance, and ensure equity. Among specific challenges are the following: Lack of structural and organizational frameworks – institutions, infrastructures, extension and innovation mechanisms
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran Lack of capacity and adequate resources – human, physical, financial, communicational, informational Africa is the region with the lowest expenditures devoted to higher education and research and, consequently, has the lowest number of scientists and engineers, with poorly equipped laboratories and packed lecture rooms; Adaptation to new world integrated higher education systems, such as the “license-master-doctorate” approach Inadequacy and fragmentation of curricula and research programs Partitioning and disarticulation of national socioeconomic development plans and enterprises, particularly in the private sector Lack of motivation, leading to brain drain Lack of assessment of teachers, researchers, and program Lack of cooperation and partnerships among institutions, at national, regional, and international levels Poor management procedures and bureaucracy and frequet strikes Accordingly, the AU considers that the following priority areas should be addressed for the second decade of education: Improving supply and utilization of teachers Enhancing teacher competence Institutionalizing systematic career-long development of teachers Professionalizing and enhancing capacity for school leadership Improving teacher morale, working conditions, and social benefits Intensifying pedagogical research for continued improvement of teaching and learning
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran Scientific research and the entire process of technological innovation play a vital role in increasing economic performance, which in turn promotes employment, food security, access to energy, and wellbeing. They play a fundamental role in the improvement of the standard of living of a nation. Sectors like agriculture and natural resource exploitation, which constitute the mainstay of the economy of the majority of countries in Africa, require the adoption and implementation of a strong strategy for technology innovation to address the numerous problems such as poverty, endemic diseases, hunger, and malnutrition that are drastically hindering Africa’s sustainable development. This strategy should be given the highest priority to allow for the creation of a greater range of sustainable wealth through long-lasting income and employment generation, resulting, for example, in more export opportunities for locally processed products. A relevant innovation system should be put in place with appropriate manpower, institutional framework, rules, and procedures, aiming at efficient and useful acquisition, master appropriation, dissemination and proper utilization of technological knowledge and packages. The major elements of a strategy for technology innovation and transfer should be a specific component that is fully integrated into the national policy for science and technology. It has to be closely related to the national socioeconomic development policy and plan. It should be sustained by the three pillars of research, production, and market and composed of the following elements: Global needs assessment to clearly identify problems Vision for the future clearly describing the major development goals Strategic goals and general principles to set up well-defined objectives, with quantification, prioritization, and time-
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran frames based on the situation of the country in terms of food security, energy autonomy, and local raw materials Technology policy instruments as part of the structural and organizational framework to impart, conduct, and implement national strategies on science and technology for development. (Among the key bodies are the ministry of science and technology, the national council for science and technology, research-development institutions, centers for technology innovation and acquisition, intellectual property offices, and financing organizations for research and innovation.) Capacity building or strengthening of Africa’s scientific and technical potential to address development problems which is crucial with regard to human resources development, infrastructures, and equipment for research and development Information and awareness to sensitize policy makers, economic operators, and civil societies as well as public opinion on scientific and technological achievements and their key role in development processes Cooperation and partnership to share experiences from success stories at the national, subregional, regional, and international levels in order to stimulate research activities and production, for example in agricultural or industrial sectors Assessment to measure and analyze achievements and gaps together with the incidence of key factors Maintaining information and experience exchange is essential to stimulate research activity or industrial production. As a result of efficient and vibrant higher education and research systems, the establishment of technology innovation strategies in our countries, like in any other region of the world, could tap into global knowledge through trade, foreign investment, collaborative programs, and technology transfer within relevant channels. African researchers or industrialists often do not have the appropriate scientific environment due to the lack of a well organized scientific and technological community including federations or associations organized by subject matter (physics, chemistry,
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran biology) or by occupation (agronomists, nutritionists, electrical engineers). These researchers are generally isolated and affected by the absence, in their own countries, of valid interlocutors in their areas of specialization. In the same way, there is widespread inadequacy of scientific and technological information media (updated libraries and documentation centers, specialized periodicals, or publications) and lack of quick communication on new scientific and technological achievements (access to databases and data banks). Furthermore, the participation of African researchers in international scientific events like seminars, symposia, and congresses is most often hindered by the lack of financial means to cover registration, travel, and fees. Moreover, the scarcity of scientists, technologists and engineers as well as of physical and financial resources makes it necessary to avoid duplication and to promote subregional, regional, and international cooperation. The cooperation and partnership strongly advocated by the Lagos Plan of Action (1980) as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (2001) could materialize through the establishment of consortia, joint programs, or thematic networks aimed at promoting higher education and research to pave the way for a strong technology innovation and transfer strategy. An international approach can harmonize national scientific and technological development as well as technological innovation strategies, including within the context of subregional political and economic organizations. With regard to the need to support African technological higher education and research systems through dynamic inter-institutional partnerships, the following elements could be taken into consideration: Needs assessments of faculties of science, technology, and engineering Creation of a national strategy for science, technology, and innovation through interactive seminars involving higher education teachers and researchers as well as top policy makers
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran Capacity building of technological higher education and research institutions, including exchanges of teachers and researchers through visiting programs, development of curricula on science policy, establishment of a framework for a national integrated system of higher education and research, and establishment of an extension and innovation unit with services to national or regional communities (private enterprises, public bodies, NGOs), and mechanisms for networking, connectivity, and sharing success experiences The African Regional Centre for Technology (ARCT), an intergovernmental organization established in 1977 in Kaduna, Nigeria, under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the OAU, became operational in 1980 with its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. According to its objectives, the ARCT aims to become an efficient tool in initiating, strengthening, coordinating, and integrating national, subregional, and regional technological capacities and strategies of African states. Now, with the prospects and hope of the AU, the ARCT is fully committed to the implementation of Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action launched by the AU. The Centre, which is about to initiate a program on Managing Science, Technology, and Innovation for Africa’s Sustainable Development in cooperation with various partners, is fully prepared to play a significant role in the development process, particularly with regard to issues related to technology innovation and transfer. CONCLUSION The capacity to generate, disseminate, and utilize scientific knowledge determines more and more the success of the participation of countries in the world economy. Being at the bottom in all areas of activity, the African population, in spite of the continent’s richness in human and natural resources, obviously runs the risk of being abandoned and forgotten in an economically backward
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran ghetto with restricted opportunities. The obstacles hampering technological innovation in Africa are numerous and stem from a set of economic, political, and structural parameters related to public authorities and to research institutions, development enterprises, and market specificities. The phenomenon of universalization is increasingly subject to scientific and technological innovation intensified by, among other things, the spectacular progress in information and communication technology. Africa continues to be concerned by its mere survival, by the need to guarantee the daily subsistence of its population, to combat severe diseases, and by a number of other poverty issues. Therefore, for Africa to promote its sustainable development and cope with an increasingly competitive world, there is an urgent and real need to overcome these challenges and prepare for a vigorous technology innovation and transfer strategy. This strategy should be fully integrated into each country’s science and technology policy, with a close relation to the national socioeconomic development plan. To that effect, it is necessary to significantly increase the global resources allocated to technological higher education and research institutions to enable them to fully contribute to Africa’s sustainable development and to define promptly for potential promoters all the technical and financial specifications and the practical modalities for the commercial exploitation of technological results at the industrial or craft level. In this regard, strong partnerships involving other developing countries in the South (Asia and Latin America) as well as countries in Europe, North America, and Japan are of utmost importance. The ARCT, with its wide experience and significant collaborative networks, is willing to assist African countries to formulate and implement realistic technology innovation and transfer strategies and to serve as a prime mover for the continent’s sustainable development.
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran REFERENCES African Union. 2006. Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015): Plan of Action. Maputo, Mozambique: Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union. Organisation of African Unity. 1980. Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa 1980-2000. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.