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Regional bloc creates advisory council for science

An east and southern African regional economic bloc has created an eight-member advisory council to help it integrate science into its policymaking.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Innovation Council was launched in Kampala, Uganda on 8 April by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

The council was born out of a need to boost the economic bloc’s competitiveness, says Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University in the US.

“The main focus of the advisory council will be to support the Comesa secretariat and member states in integrating science and technology in regional integration strategies,” Juma says.

Juma’s institution will help provide some of the research the council will require to advise the Comesa secretariat and member states on how to use science to grow their economies.

The council’s members include prominent academics such as chemist Lydia Makhubu from Swaziland and Venasius Baryamureeba, former vice-chancellor of Makerere University.

The council will make an annual US$1 million innovation award to scientists who have excelled in their field.

“[The council will] oversee the design and launch of the Comesa Innovation Award aimed at recognising and celebrating individuals or organisations that have used science, technology and innovation to make outstanding contributions to the regional integration and development agenda,” according to its terms of reference.

It will also organise an innovation forum that will provide a platform for scientists and policymakers from east and southern Africa to share their research results.

Other members of the council, which is expected to meet once a year, include Aggrey Ambali, the head of policy alignment at the Pretoria-based New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s planning and coordinating agency.

The council will also work with policy forums such as the African Ministerial Congress on Science and Technology to raise the profile of science on the continent.