Sustainable development in Africa cannot be achieved if the continent's governments are not supported to develop their Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) capacity, the United Kingdom's Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir David King has warned.
King made his statements on July 11 while delivering a lecture: Science, Technology, Innovation and Wealth Creation: Skills and Capacity Building in Developing Countries, at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The World Bank's Africa Region Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili hosted the event.
King has written extensively and passionately about the central role that STI capacity building must play in Africa's poverty reduction and economic development strategies.
"Science and technology is vital for good governance, stability and human capital," King said Wednesday. "A technically skilled population is a prerequisite for economic and wealth sustainability, and well being."
In her welcome remarks, Ezekwesili said science and technology development is most relevant to Africa, where the incidence of people living on less than $1 a day remains staggeringly high at 41% of the population. She said there was need for an impact-driven approach to the World Bank's assistance to governments, especially in Africa, to help turn the situation around.
"Advances in science, technology and innovation are needed simultaneously with other conditions for sustainable development. But in Africa, science and mathematics education has become so esoteric and cut off... we need to do something about that," she said.
She emphasized that it was time to speak about wealth creation in Africa, which is intrinsically linked to scientific and technological capacity.
One of the key aspects of King's lecture was "brain drain", especially in Africa, where the best scientists look for better employment opportunities in developed countries.
"In Africa, over 100,000 skilled people each year go off to the developed world. There is no economic growth possible, where skills are not staying in the system," he said.
King observed that Africa was the one continent that was remaining behind in the 21st century but was quick to point out that there were signs of technology making a big difference in improving lives. He cited the communications revolution in Africa that has been facilitated by mobile cellular technology and the potential that solar energy bears on the continent. He said it was time for Africa to generate its own scientists to exploit this potential and develop its key infrastructure.
Millennium Science Initiative
Acknowledging that Africa's leaders are increasingly aware of the need for more and higher quality scientific, technological, and innovation capacity to carry forward the agenda of economic modernization, the World Bank is supporting different Millennium Science Initiatives.
Early this year, the government of Uganda launched the first Bank-supported Millennium Science Initiative Project in Africa. The project is financed with an International Development Association (IDA) credit of $30 million to support strengthening of the country's scientific and technological capabilities in order to meet its economic growth and industrialization targets.
Another $180 million science and technology project in Nigeria is being supported to fund research, training, and centers of excellence.
It has been clearly demonstrated that African countries must build up their STI capacity in order to make demonstrable progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Several Governments in Africa, including Botswana, Mozambique and Rwanda are already moving towards adopting STI policies, and investing more resources into targeted science development programs.
Early in 2007, more than 300 ministers, scientists, private sector and non-governmental representatives from over 60 countries gathered at the World Bank in Washington DC, to discuss the importance of science and technology in development, agreeing that improved science and technology capacity would close the gap that separates the world's knowledge leaders from developing countries.
Notes to editors :
Contributed by Steven Shalita
The videotape of Sir David King's July 11 presentation entitled, "Science, Technology, Innovation, and Wealth Creation," and the introduction by Ms. Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili are available online.
For Sir David King's full powerpoint presentation, please click on the below link: