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High-level panel to review African science

Policy heavyweights to advise science ministers

The African Union (AU) has created an advisory panel to review the progress on Africa’s science and technology plan.

The eight-member panel will meet for the first time on 8 and 9 August in Alexandria, Egypt, to discuss progress on Africa’s Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA) for science, technology and innovation.

Calestous Juma, a Kenya-born international development professor at Harvard Kennedy School in the United States, will chair the panel together with Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

The committee will assess whether the CPA, adopted in 2005, has been successfully implemented and effective in responding to the challenges faced by Africa, according to a statement released by the AU on 3 August.

The panel will produce a report, which will be presented at the African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology to be held in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) in November.

But the report will not just look at what has been achieved—it will also look at the future of African science.

“We will be focusing on opportunities such as the rise in political awareness, visible impacts of innovation in mobile communication, and renewed focus on foundational sectors such as agriculture,” Juma told Research Africa from the US.

He wants the focus to shift from raising funding for research to harnessing the creativity and entrepreneurship of Africans, whether they have a degree or are part of a university or not.

“We hope to shift policy actions from narrow interests to raise funds for research to a broader and more exciting movement to foster creativity and innovation in all fields of African endeavour. In addition, engineering and entrepreneurship will feature prominently in our work,” he said.

Strong team

Juma and Serageldin have a history of working together. They jointly chaired a high-level panel on biotechnology whose 2007 report promoted a regional—as opposed to continental—approach to building research capacity in Africa.

The panel also includes Botlhale Tema, the South Africa-born former director of the AU’s human resources, science and technology department.

Other African-based members are Rispah Oduwo, the chief science secretary of Kenya’s National Council for Science and Technology; François Lompo, an agricultural researcher in Burkina Faso; and Jean de Dieu Nzila, director of the Research Center for the Preservation and Restoration of Lands in the Republic of Congo.

Two members will represent the international community: Karim Mareida of Michigan State University in the US and Pascal Kossivi Adjamagbo of University Paris 6 in France.

The CPA has directed how pan-African science funding has been spent since 2005.

Its projects include the Africa Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators initiative, which published the first locally-produced survey of African science and innovation activity last year. It also laid the foundations for African regional science networks like the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences.

But some initiatives from the CPA—such as the African Science and Innovation Fund and an African database of energy research and technologies—have not been implemented. The high-level panel may give an answer as to why.