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AAA, INC. SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY POLICY

Charles B. Haukwa, Ph.D.
Engineer/Scientist
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Berkeley, California
CBHaukwa@yahoo.com

Several organizations are articulating their plan for the integration of Africa and the role Science and Technology could play. We live in a world in which the pace of technological development and innovation is unparalleled in human history. Technological development in one part of the world will impact another part within months and, in some cases, even days. Whereas a large part of Africa is still striving to provide the basic needs for its population, one cannot escape the fact that the ability to provide these basic needs is linked to technological innovations and development in other parts of the world. Will genetically modified (GM) foods solve the hunger problem? Will a breakthrough in genetic research lead to a cure of childhood diseases, AIDS, etc.? Can recent advances in wireless communication technology bridge the communications gap? What benefits can an integrated Africa provide to her populace, and what technological development is needed to achieve them?

Other than serving as an authority for the advancement of science and technology, this office will strive to highlight different ways of stimulating intellectual debate and will develop a consensus geared toward the diverse needs of Africa. We hope to develop a forum that will serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the AAA with respect to major policies, plans, and programs. Thus, we hope to identify areas in which local and international coordination of scientific and technological policy will aid in the integration of Africa and will provide for its needs.

To quote from the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD 1) consensus statement, “Unity is the overwhelming demand of the Africans across the continent. Political and economic integration will fulfill the aspirations of Africans of all walks of life. The commitment of African Heads of State, at Sirte in September 1999, Lome in July 2000 and Lusaka in July 2001, to create the African Union (AU) represents the most serious attempt to achieve regional economic and political integration.” The AU places profound responsibility on Africa’s leaders at both local and regional levels. Here is an excerpt of the Consensus Statement with respect to Information and Technology Education and Infrastructure, key ingredients of technological advancement. We at AAA are prepared to play our role in stimulating debate and disseminating this information to as wide an audience as possible.

1 The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was adopted by the OAU Heads of States at a Summit held in Lusaka in July 2001. At the final review of the United Nations New Agenda for Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF) in October 2002, the General Assembly decided to endorse a recommendation by the Secretary-General that NEPAD should be the framework for the international community's support to African development.

Integration of Africa

African Union, a Consensus Statement and the Way Forward for Africa

Higher Education, Research, and ICT

1. The 21st century is an era of knowledge-based economies. Investment in the educational sector will be key to Africa's achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction and human resource development. This priority should be reflected in increased appropriations for education by African countries.

2. Integrated investment in the fields of education, research and human capital development will be essential to reverse Africa's marginalization in global higher education and research, to enable the continent to address its scientific and public policy challenges. Policies to promote the retention of expertise and reversal of the brain drain should be developed, including creating an enabling environment for the private sector to be involved in knowledge creation. Africa should identify and promote regional centers of excellence in higher education and research, especially in science and technology, strengthen its links with the Diaspora, and establish strategic partnerships with international partners to promote priority areas for research. African universities should themselves develop strategic plans and should promote shared curriculum development, sharing of staff and exchange of students.

3. The African Union, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) can support higher education by convening a task force to examine the challenges for higher education and research for the AU, African governments, and other institutions. This strategy should include strengthening regional centers of excellence, securing greater funding for higher education and research including endowments that will ensure the independence of universities, establishing a database of African scholars and specialists, and setting up a specialized journal on higher education in Africa. The ECA is encouraged to take the lead in integrating these efforts and raising them to the requisite political level, through the mechanism of a series of workshops and conferences. As a culmination of this, and in order to promote the achievement of the goals of the OAU Decade of Education in Africa at its mid-term, the AU should convene an extraordinary summit on education and development in Africa.

4. Harmonizing qualifications frameworks across Africa will promote equal access and facilitate accreditation, transfer and movement of skills, and the realization of the right of establishment.

5. Information and communications technology (ICT) is fundamental to Africa's future economic development. ICT cuts across the various aspects of regional integration and has the potential for accelerating the integration of Africa's markets and raising the continent's global competitiveness. Currently, Africa's ICT suffers from myriad handicaps, including inadequate funding, poor physical infrastructure, weak regulatory and legislative frameworks, dearth of human resources, and lack of ICT policies.

6. African governments in partnership with all stakeholders, in particular the private sector, should establish working groups on ICT at the national level using the framework of the African Information Society Initiative. A variety of initiatives, including training, sensitization and the promotion of Internet access, should be pursued. Institutional reforms can allow for more effective private sector participation in ICT. ICTs offer the possibility of enhanced regional approaches to major social issues including the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

7. African governments in collaboration with other stakeholders can play a key role in advancing an ICT agenda for regional integration focusing on such areas as policy and regulatory frameworks, infrastructure development, capacity strengthening, partnership and regional co-operation. Special effort should be made to mainstream ICTs in the issues of regional integration. We should not lose sight of the need to take into account the issues of content development and gender dimension in all areas of ICT policy development and implementation.

8. Investment in Science and Technology must be granted priority status as a vehicle for development of affordable and appropriate solutions for poverty eradication.

Infrastructure

1. The integration of transport, communications and energy infrastructures are integral components of regional integration. Strategies need to be developed to improve connectivity and complete the missing links in transport networks, develop more efficient communications, and exploit the potential of pooling power grids. Mechanisms, including public-private partnerships, need to be examined to encourage private sector investment in physical infrastructure.

2. The transport sector is hampered by physical obstacles and other problems, including inadequate maintenance, insecurity, poor management and inadequate financing. A range of actions, including policy reform, improved maintenance, greater investment in infrastructure, safety and security, and better financing mechanisms are called for. The environmental impacts of infrastructural development warrant attention.

3. African states, in partnership with the private sector, should implement the Plan of Action for the Way Forward Beyond the United Nations Transport and Communications Decade (UNCTAD) and allocate adequate resources. States should adopt appropriate measures and harmonize policies for the implementation of the Plan of Action. Sub-regional and regional organizations and international partners should play an active role in the mobilization of resources and should organize the periodic monitoring and review of the implementation of the Plan of Action.

4. Although Africa is abundantly endowed with natural resources such as oil, natural gas, uranium and hydropower, there are major imbalances in their geographical distribution. Many are trans-boundary resources, especially water. Most of these resources are best exploited by regional approaches. Environmental protection and monitoring also requires regional cooperation. The African Union should look to the African Development Bank for modalities for financing investment in these sectors.