African Manifesto on Science, Technology and Innovation receives Praise at the Royal Society in London
June 16, 2010; The Executive Director of the African Technology Policy Studies Network, Dr Kevin Urama yesterday gave a presentation on the ongoing process of writing an African Manifesto on Science, technology and Innovation at the Royal Society in London. Speaking during the event organized to mark the launch of the new 'manifesto' on innovation by the United Kingdom's STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), Dr Urama told participants that the idea of an African Manifesto was borne out of the emergence of strong awareness of the role of STI as the engine of development in Africa. Quoting Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he said “No country on earth has developed without deploying, harnessing and utilizing science and technology, whether through technology transfer or homegrown solutions.”
The African manifesto was initiated under the auspices of a Collaborative EU project: Science, Ethics and Technological Responsibilities in Developing and Emerging Countries SET-DEV. Beginning initially as single-country initiative targeting Kenya, it was later up-scaled to an African Manifesto by the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in order to address the diversity of regional imperatives in the new globalised knowledge economies. It is the product of a multi-lateral dialogue amongst SETDEV Project Partners and Stakeholders in Africa, Europe and India.
The African Manifesto is inspired by among other things, the need for global action to address the interlinked global challenges of global economic crisis, poverty reduction, climate change and biodiversity loss. It calls for a new politics of innovation built around diversity, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. “Reducing global poverty while promoting environmental sustainability is the moral imperative of our age,” said Dr Urama.
The Manifesto also advocates for the formation of dedicated Ministries, National Commission and State Agencies and Pan-African Governmental, and Non-Governmental Organizations committed to STI capacity building in Africa.
He however draws attention to the fact that the politics of globalization, internationalization and regionalization of Science Technology and Innovation (STI) has defined and shaped it in ways that effectively excludes the African voice, knowledge systems, and knowledge communities, and to a large extent, the African development agenda. As a result, questions regarding how science and technology agenda is initiated and prioritized, how STI knowledge is produced, coordinated, transferred or circulated, monitored and evaluated and scaled-up, and the general direction of STI for African development still prevail.
The vision of the African Manifesto is therefore to restore confidence in African Science Technology and Innovation (STI); build sustainable STI infrastructure; and embed African STI in African society. “We envision a new world in which there is self-rule and democratic Governance of STI in Africa for African Development,” said Dr. Urama. The African Manifesto with its strong emphasis on the need for African efforts to be owned and led by Africans, received accolades and generated wide interest among members of the global scientific fraternity who attended the event.
“Both the STEPS and ATPS manifestos represent the result of more than a year's research, network-building and political debate. They have already stimulated other groups to put forward their own manifestos for science and technology. We hope that they can further catalyse a vigorous new politics of innovation at national, regional and global levels that fosters a more vibrant and creative diversity of innovation pathways — scientific, technological, organisational and social. It is only in such ways that human ingenuity may truly meet the imperatives of poverty alleviation, social justice and environmental sustainability,” said Adrian Ely, who is a member of the STEPS Centre and the convenor of the project Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto.
In Conclusion, Dr Urama said, “It is our hope that the dialogue generated around the African manifesto begins to map out ways achieve transformational changes in how STI is socially defined, prioritised, constructed, funded, communicated, monitored and evaluated in Africa.” “If the Manifesto leads to a better understanding of the changing forms and directions of STI politics in the global economy, it will make the long and arduous journey towards delivering this manifesto for Africa all the more worthwhile,”he added.