Despite large metal deposits and a talented workforce, some say Africa remains the least developed and most impoverished continent, because of the lack of strong scientific and technological infrastructures. The purpose of a conference beginning today in Miami, Florida, is to stress the importance of science and technology in Africa?s development. It is being sponsored by the African Union (AU) and the Foundation for Democracy in Africa. Anthony Akonmah is executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Africa; he tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty about the objectives of the conference.

?The purpose of the conference is to first of all popularize the use of science and technology among people of African descent. Secondly, to use this conference to identify scientists and engineers who are of African descent who can now establish relationships with the African Union. Thirdly, the purpose of this conference is to look for a way forward, whereby we can extract or use the knowledge assets that is in the Diaspora to help improve the standard of living of the African people in the continent of Africa.?

Mr. Akonmah says the conference hopes to encourage the private sector to invest in science and technological development in Africa. He admits, however, that developing science and technology in Africa in the 21st century faces many challenges.

?A lot of the constraints [are] purely infrastructure development. We have a lot of constraints in the school systems whereby most of those colleges and universities are under funded, especially their science technology programs. In order for Africa to be self-sufficient, they have to train their people so that they can know how to turn raw materials into finished products. And to know that, they have to have the knowledge. Today?s world is a knowledge economy, and if you depend on other people to do it for you, it?s not going to happen.?

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