African science policies ‘should focus more on technology development’

Report from African Academy of Sciences also claims that scientific research in continent must better align with sustainable development goals

March 12, 2018
Source: iStock

Science policies in African countries must include a greater emphasis on technology development and innovation rather than focusing only on funding scientific research in order to spur long-term economic growth across the continent, a recent report has claimed.

A study from the African Academy of Sciences says that in 2016 less than half of African countries had adopted science, technology and innovation policies and among those that had, most of the policies did “not consider sustainable development imperatives holistically”.

“Instead, they tend to focus on funding scientific research with less emphasis on technology development, procurement and innovation. This may stimulate the production of knowledge for short-term economic growth, but fails to spur social inclusion and environmental sustainability that are necessary to long-term sustainable development,” according to the report Africa Beyond 2030: Leveraging Knowledge and Innovation to Secure Sustainable Development Goals.

The study adds that efforts to implement effective science, technology and innovation policies are limited by “low policy literacy, weak human capacity, insufficient monitoring and accountability, and inadequate budgets”.

Meanwhile, “weak coordination and collaboration” between the scientific research and the science policy communities has resulted in “misalignment of research design and prioritisation” with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, the report adds, claiming that most African scientists are not familiar with the goals.

The study adds that progress regarding investment in research and development in the past decade has been “mixed” across the continent. While countries such as Algeria, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia and Tunisia have increased their annual gross expenditure in this area, funding levels have declined in South Africa and other countries are heavily reliant on foreign sources for R&D income.

Even the largest investments have not reached the target of 1 per cent of gross domestic product as recommended by the African Union in 2007, it says.

Research and innovation collaboration across the region and internationally is also “under-resourced and underfunded” in the continent, it adds.

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