The African Development Bank has called on African countries to make science, technology and innovation (STI) policies inclusive and place women and girls at the centre of STI programmes.
The bank made the call as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science was celebrated across the world. Celebrated each year on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.
According to Director of Human Capital Youth and Skills Development at the African Development Bank Oley Dibba-Wadda, the day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened. He said, "Africa cannot talk about innovations without investing in its human capital. Support and mentorship are essential to increasing the participation of youth and women in science and technology."
"Decision-makers must prioritize the inclusion of youth and women in science and technology. African entrepreneurs and innovators must also be equipped with the right skills to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce," he added.
AfDB through its numerous interventions in STI is pointing the way to how women and girls can be supported to make a difference in science and innovation. For instance, through the Nigeria Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF), the bank is providing scholarships to African students to develop and build their capacities in science and technology at the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja.
According to the Chief Gender Officer at the African Development Bank, María-José Moreno, AfDB in its operations supporting science, technology and innovation in Africa, has set indicators reducing gender gaps amongst students, and amongst teachers.
"A society needs the talent of all its citizens, men and women, and cannot thrive when half of the population does not develop its potential," she said.She explained that the AfDB uses a multi-pronged approach to support girl's education especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), adding that between 2005-2017, the bank approved $2 billion to support more than 70 education projects for Africa.
Moreno noted that $52 million in support to technical vocational education, training, and teacher education in Tanzania is helping reduce gender imbalance in science and technology related programs where female participation was only 11-19 percent. 10,800 students, which 50 percent of them fare emale, have benefited from the programme.
She further explained that through the bank's support of the Network of African Institutions of Science and Technology (SNAIST) Project, 510 students graduated from Master's and Ph.D programmes, with 48.9 percent being female. The project awarded 48 scholarships to students, including young women.
The goal of the African Development Bank project, she also explained is to contribute to the building of high-skilled human capital, especially in science and technology for the technological advancement of the African continent.
One of the graduates, Ufuoma Bright Ighore and her professor, were awarded first prize in the 2nd International Bernard P. Zeigler Discrete Event System Specification modelling and simulation competition in Boston, Massachusetts.As part of its programmes in promoting science, technology and innovation, the bank recently co-hosted the third Africa Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation in Cairo, Egypt.
Theme, 'STI for Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Transformation in Africa' the forum featured a parallel session on 'Women in Science: Addressing the Gender Gap in the Field of Science, Technology and Innovation'.
For the bank's Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society, Vanessa Moungar, creating more equitable and inclusive societies requires that women and men are distributed across the different professions, including science, technology and innovation."This will foster social progress, cohesion and make societies and economies more resilient," she said.