9 November 2003

South Africa: Ministers Commit to Improving Africa's Science, Technology Capacity

Pretoria — Scores of African ministers for science and technology wrapped up their two-day conference in Johannesburg on Friday by adopting a plan of action aimed at improving the continent's scientific and technological capacity and expertise.

The plan, to be further fine-tuned by a newly established ministerial council, will lead to the introduction of life changing scientific and technologic projects to improve Africa's capacity to deal a severe blow to poverty, food security and underdevelopment.

This, in line with the multi-prone goals of Africa's economic recovery blueprint, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

According to a statement released by the Minister of Science and Technology Ben Ngubane, the adopted plan would lead to the formulation of a business plan on the flagship programmes by a Steering Committee consisting of senior officials.

The committee would represent the five geographical regions of the continent and the Nepad Secretariat.

The flagship programmes would address the pressing problems of poverty and food security, biotechnology, manufacturing, energy, Information and Communication Technologies, post harvest technology and water research.

"In each of these areas, networks of centres of excellence and innovation hubs will be created in order to promote and develop innovations that will address the continent's socio-economic challenges, including the development of human resource capacity," said the minister.

The plan also saw African countries committing to increased funding for science and technology from their exchequer budgets, to the tune of at least 1 percent of their respective Gross Domestic Products.

The member countries also undertook to put into effect several mechanisms to stimulate private sector investment in scientific research and technological development.

Research institutions are encouraged to supplement their incomes by undertaking income generating services and through royalties from intellectual property, while countries would for their part, promote the use of national, regional and continental expertise before external expertise is sought.

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