A weeklong conference on “Science with Africa opens Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The conference is a follow-up to the African Union summit last year in which the heads of state declared 2007 the year of science and technology. The leaders also called on African countries to allocate one percent of their gross domestic product to research and development by 2020 so as to achieve specific Millennium Development Goals.
Aida Opoku Mensah is director of the science and technology division of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). From the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, she told VOA the overall aim of the conference is that science and technology should feature prominently on the development agenda of Africa.
“We feel that some of the solutions that Africa is looking for for all its challenges and all its problems, be it health, be it transport, be it infrastructure, be it water, these solutions lie in the hands of African scientists and researchers. And it’s high time that we involve African scientists in the development solutions of the continent,” she said.
Opoku Mensah said the ECA like the African Union would like for African countries to invest more research and development.
“One of the things we are looking at is to ensure that Africans participate in research and development programs. By that we are talking about research and development programs that have funding. But because African countries are not aware, they don’t where these funding sources are. That’s one. The second is that we see along the same road for the Economic Commission for Africa as well as the African Union Commission in ensuring that African governments step up their investment in research and development,” Opoku Mensah said.
She said to drive home that point, ministers of science and technology from around the continent have been invited to attend the conference. She members of parliament, including speakers of parliament have also been invited because she said their awareness is also important.
Opoku Mensah said in using science and technology, Africa should begin with whatever would be identified as the technological needs of the continent.
“There are clearly areas where low technology will come into play and would be very important. But there are also areas where high technology and high science are needed. But you see all of this requires a more strategic focus for government and more informed decision making for African policy makers to recognize that this needs to be done,” she said.
Opoku Mensah said the conference received a goodwill message from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in which she said that research and development, whether home grown or international, has to be rooted in solving Africa’s problems.