STI POLICY GAP: A BARRIER TO ECONOMIC PROGRESS IN AFRICA

By Dr. Jaro Arero

Deputy Director, Basic Sciences & Engineering Division at the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO and a STI Policy Expert.

As global economic trends move from commodity to knowledge economy, ideas have become an important constituent of the modern day trading process. Ideas have replaced goods and services and are critical factors of production for start-ups and in some cases entire economies.

In the 21st century, national economies rely on the ability to create sustainable jobs or robust economies, capable of withstanding fluctuations in global markets through harnessing the power of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI); strengthened and up to date STI frameworks and policies will be central to realizing the African Union Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, most African countries do not have a functional STI policy in place, the few that have do not regularly review them to ensure they are in tandem with the fast changing national priorities and global trends. Like any other policy, STI policy needs to be championed at high levels of governments and this is also an indicator of the priority attached to it and which also comes with funding. A desktop search shows that only 52% of African countries have published STI policies.  Very few countries have ministries or state departments dedicated to Science, Technology and Innovation.

Figure 1 below shows that 27 % of African countries have Ministries dedicated to STI Policy while 23 % do not have a dedicated ministry nor infused in another ministry.

Figure 1: Proportion of African Countries with Ministries Dedicated to STI

STI is an enabler for economic progress and sustainable development considering all the challenges posed by population growth, diminishing wetlands, fresh water scarcity, food insecurity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels and climate change. African countries cannot afford to continue operating on a business as usual policy model, but need to have a paradigm shift and harness the benefits of STI to break out of poverty, dependence on foreign aid, export of raw agricultural produces and a work force unprepared for the jobs of the 21st century.

Without sufficient funding of Research and Development, countries will only be at the bottom of knowledge food chain where they can only consume knowledge generated elsewhere. Different continents have different regional priorities and so are their R & D priorities. Evidence-based solutions to societal challenges do not always work by copy pasting from one region to another. In 2010, the percentage of GDP allocated to R&D (GERD) in Africa ranged from 0.02 to 0.79 far below the recommended 2%. Compared to R&D investments in 2015 of tech giant countries such as Israel (GERD, 4.27%) and South Korea (GERD, 4.23%) a pattern comes out. These two countries economically stand outs despite being both being natural resources-scarce.

African countries still fare badly in other indicators of a strong STI culture. There is a positive correlation between research output and economic development. According to Elsevier, in 2012, the share of the world’s articles with African authors was 2.3%, which is a significant improvement compared to 1.2% in 1996. But considering that in 2012 population of Africa was 15% of the global population, Africa’s contribution in 2012 to knowledge generation was still disproportionately dismal.

Effective Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws and regulations are critical in knowledge economies, as it provides a favourable environment for creators, innovators and investors. Using patent output to measure entrenchment of innovation culture, Africa as a region is an underperformer. It is not that innovations are not taking place in Africa or Africans are not innovative enough, the challenge emanate from weak Intellectual Property policies and poor enforcement of the existing ones. Small and micro-enterprises form the basis the continent’s economic base and also the epicenter of innovation; however, they are made vulnerable by unawareness of their IPR, weak enforcement of existing legislations and these exposes them to loss of their ideas. In 2013, Africa contributed only 0.1% of patents generated.

 

Africa’s poor performance in research output has its genesis in the shortage of researchers. Even of the few researchers produced by the universities in Africa, a significant number leave the continent due to lack of infrastructure and resources. According to UNESCO Science report 2015, in 2013 Africa’s share of researchers was 2.4 %; a ratio that has not changed since 2007 when it was 2.3%. The situation is more dire when looked at in absolute terms, the continent has just 79 scientists per million of inhabitants compared to better performing countries such as Brazil and United States where the ratio stands at 656 and 4,500, respectively. This lack of skilled human capital will certainly continue to slow down the continent’s economic take off and realizations of development goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals. It is estimated that to achieve the goals of SDG 6 (Clean water and Affordable sanitation); sub-Saharan Africa needs 2.5 million engineers. The bulk of students in African universities are enrolled in arts and business courses, in some countries they make up to 70% of the student population.

Without change in policy approach going by this current trajectory, Africa may not produce enough Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics professionals critically needed for socio-economic transformations to knowledge economy and sustainable society. As with other industrial revolution, the 4th industrial revolution may also by pass Africa.

 

 


SCIENTOMETRICS AND STI INDICATORS AS AN OPTION FOR IMPROVING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA

By Yussuf  Utieyineshola

Various reports have pointed out on the critical role that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) plays in development. The 2005 World Summit in its outcome document titled “Science and Technology for Development” emphasized on the need to build STI systems for emplacing sustainable development.

Similar to this report were the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development Report (2004) which sought to identify approaches for the effective promotion and the use of science and technology to meet development goals; the World Bank report of 2003 titled “Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development” which suggested that development will not be possible without science and technology. Furthermore, The UN Millennium Project 2005 tagged “Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development” also posited that developing countries must have the courage to break with traditional approaches and explore the role of STI in their development strategies.

Incidentally, the contributory role of STI to development cannot be determined if it is not measureable. Scientometric indicator is one of the most efficient and objective methods of assessing research and innovation performance. Scientometric analysis is the quantitative study of the innovation system based mainly on bibliometric and patent indicators.

In bibliometrics, the number of publications in a field is considered as an indicator of research activity while in patent analysis the number of patents awarded to an institution or a country is used as an indicator of technological activity.

Patent indicators within the Science and Technology (S&T) context are used to measure inventive performance, diffusion of knowledge and internationalization of innovative activities across countries, firms, industries, technology areas, etc. The philosophy underlying the use of bibliometric indicators as performance measures has been summarized in De Solla Price’s statement that “for those who are working at the research front, publication is not just an indicator but, in a very strong sense, the end product of their creative effort”.

Statistics on the world share of publications by different regions show that Africa produced only about 68,945 publications between the periods of 2000-2004 which is 1.8% of the World’s publications. India (Asia) produced 2.4% and Latin America 3.5% of the World’s research publications.

Research in Africa is concentrated mainly in two countries; South Africa and Egypt. These two countries produced just above 50% of the Continent’s publications. Examination of the Continent’s inventive profile, as manifested in patents, indicates that Africa produces less than one thousand of the world’s inventions. About 88% of the Continent’s inventive activity is concentrated in South Africa.

Monitoring and evaluating the various facets of the scientific sector is a necessary and integral tool needed for STI policy to deliver its role to the development of any society. African leaders and policy makers must appreciate the need for encouraging and supporting its institutions saddled with the responsibility of monitoring the performance of STI through identified indicators as practiced in the developed countries. They must be made to realize that STI indicators have become essential tools for assessing knowledge capacity in a country or region and as evidence for setting policy actions.

In order to project African countries to the top table in terms of scientific and technological development, researchers from various countries in the continent must ensure that proper documentation of their S&T activities are monitored and evaluated. They must also realize that publishing and patenting  scientific papers or results is not enough but that ranking of their scientific publications, which is a component of STI Indicator, will only be recognised if they are well indexed and recognized in global databases such as; S&T Data Centre of UNESCO Institute for Statistics (www.uis.unesco.org/ScienceTechnology/); OECD Science, Technology and R&D Statistics (http://www.oecd.org/sti/); Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) (www.asti.cgiar.org); African Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) (http://www.nepadst. org/astii/index.shtml); or in web-based S&T indicators like; Webometrics Ranking of World Universities (http://www.webometrics.info); and the WISER Project (Web Indicators for Science, Technology and Innovation Research) (http://www. wiserweb.org and http://www.webindicators.org).


REVOLUTIONIZING  AFRICA’S ECONOMY THROUGH AGRIPRENEURSHIP

By Chibukizo Okpiri

Many African countries have been hit hard by the present economic lacuna. Economic recession is the headlines in Nigeria,  Zimbabwe is plunged in debt exacerbated by  lack of a diversified export base and declining terms of trade that make it difficult for the country to adjust to changing world demand for tradable goods. In a bid to match its present economic and financial situation, Egypt devalued her currency. In 2015, Ethiopia faced one of the worst droughts in 30 years caused by El Niño which led to poor harvests and shortage of livestock forage. The fall of oil price has left Angola struggling with the reins of its economy. This begs the question which way Africa?

Agripreneurship is the solution. Agripreneurship is a union between agriculture and entrepreneurship; an agripreneur is a risk-taker, opportunist, initiator who deals with uncertainty in the agricultural business environment. The managerial, technical and innovative skills of entrepreneurship applied in the field of agriculture may yield positive results and well trained agripreneurs may become role models to all disheartened farmers. Upcoming agricultural entrepreneurs aim to reduce agricultural burden, generate employment opportunities for rural youth, control rural to urban migration, increase national income, support industrial development in rural areas and reduce pressure in urban cities.

Most African countries have comparative advantages of producing agricultural produce more than other countries yet they have nothing to show for it. Nigeria is the highest producer of cassava in the world but exports little to nothing. Cote d’Ivoire is the highest producer of cocoa in the world yet they have no local chocolate company that can compete globally and capitalize on the availability of raw materials; Ethiopia which is the major producer of oilseeds, grains and spices, which now account for nearly $750 – $800 million in export revenue.  Lack of local processing and packaging ensure that food products exit the country as cheap raw products and enter local western markets as more valuable processed goods after being processed in a local environment or in another western country.

There is a need for African countries to step up to their full potentials which is a carved out niche in the global market for themselves.  Agribusiness report 2013 opined that African countries have big opportunities to export into international markets. Almost all successful cases of African agricultural exports involve commodities like; cocoa, coffee, cotton, tobacco, tea, groundnuts, cashews, rubber, and more recently horticultural crops that tend to be grown in restricted areas with specialized agro-climatic characteristics which limits global supplies. Many of these commodities also require large amounts of labor/land for production or processing, which gives a clear advantage to African producers with plentiful low-cost labor and/or land. In the long run, given the more favorable outlook for world markets, African countries with relatively good land and water resources and low population density should be able to tap booming markets in rice, maize, soybeans, sugar, palm oil, biofuel, feedstocks, and emerge as major exporters of these commodities on world markets, following the example of recent successes in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

The time for Africa is now as Asian countries are crowded, face stiff competition and it is very expensive for most agribusiness firms and Agripreneurship which is the catalyst that will help Africa achieve this great fete. African governments should encourage and create an enabling environment for Agripreneurship to foster by encouraging financial institutions and banks which provide finances to agripreneurs to create special cells for providing easy finance to agripreneurs at concessional rates of interest and on easy repayment basis. Rural entrepreneurs should be ensured of proper supply of scarce raw materials on priority basis.  Subsidy may also be offered to make the products manufactured by agripreneurs cost competitive and reasonable; training which is essential for the development of entrepreneurial skills. This enables the rural agripreneurs to undertake the venture successfully as it imparts required skills to run the enterprise.


By Dr. Catherine N. Kunyanga

Many at times, consumers do not think about what they are eating. In the African set-up, most diets tend to be driven by a myriad of factors namely; hunger, appetite, cultural and social meaning of food, habit or custom, emotional comfort, convenience and advertising, nutritional value, social interactions and accessibility. Advertising continues to play an important role in influencing consumption of foods. Nutrition information is rarely displayed on the labels of most food products; consumers therefore purchase and consume these foods regardless of their cost without being oblivious of the possibility of them being unwholesome or of lower nutritional and health quality than indicated.

The famous quote by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine” still guides most of the underlying principles of nutrition. It is a proven fact that plant foods i.e. cereals, legumes and vegetables have helped to fulfill the ageless need to sustain body and soul. These foods play an important role in the traditional diets of many developing countries; they are low in fat, excellent sources of proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fibre and a variety of micronutrients.

Increased consumption of these foods has been widely promoted, not only do they supply macro and micronutrients but they also provide many bioactive phytochemicals which are strongly associated with health maintenance and prevention of chronic diseases.

Consumers, especially those from the middle and upper socio-economic classes have become increasingly aware of health benefits derived from consumption of health promoting specialized foods found in the market. There is also increasing willingness to pay for additional safety of food products, and increasing attention toward the overall safety of consumption patterns, given a more widespread knowledge of the relation between food consumption patterns and health status.

 

Is there a biblical perspective on what we eat?

My all favourite biblical quote “Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables or pulses to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, King’s meat, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 15…..At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.”Daniel 1:11-13 (NIV)

This proves that plant foods can help promote nutrition and health of many populations in Africa and globally with positive outcomes. Many consumers may find it strange to think about eating as a choice, but it is.

Choosing to live well is choosing to eat well. Whole foods and nutritionally adequate diets such as a variety of vegetables and fruits as part of a mainly plant-based diet can help one avoid four of the top ten leading causes of premature death which are: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

A healthy diet can help one look better and feel younger. In addition to providing several nutrients for healthy balanced diets, plant based foods exert a health-protective effect attributed mainly to antioxidants and dietary fiber. These foods have potential as a remedy to counter food insecurity since most are well adapted to the local environment enabling them to resist pests, drought and diseases.

Health Benefits of Plant Foods

A plant-based diet with high intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may reduce the risk of oxidative stress-related diseases. Consumption of a diversity of cereals, legumes, oil seeds and vegetable provides a combined additive or synergistic effect crucial to health benefits derived from the diet.

Most bioactive food constituents are derived from plants; those so derived are collectively called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are bioactive substances of plants that have been associated in the protection of human health against chronic degenerative diseases. The large majorities of these phytochemicals are redox active molecules and therefore defined as antioxidants.

Antioxidants can eliminate free radicals and other reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that contribute to most chronic diseases. It is hypothesized that antioxidants originating from foods may work as antioxidants in their own right in vivo, as well as bring about beneficial health effects through other mechanisms, including acting as inducers of mechanisms related to antioxidant defense, longevity, cell maintenance and DNA repair. Dietary diversification is the most important factor in ensuring intake of adequate micronutrients and phytochemicals.

What guides us to make informed choices?

Many efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty in Africa have focused on increasing agricultural productivity and diversity in the foods we eat. To maintain good nutrition and health, we need to eat a variety and diversity of foods.

Genesis 1:29

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food; and Genesis 9:3

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”

The search for novel high quality but cheap sources of protein and energy has continued to be a major concern in many parts of Africa. Investigations on economically viable indigenous food ingredients as alternative strategies to curb under nutrition and food insecurity are of utmost importance to broaden the essential nutrient sources for human nutrition. Adaptation to adverse environmental conditions, resistance to pests, cultural acceptability and sufficient nutritional qualities are the key advantages of these indigenous foods.

In addition, plants possess macronutrients, amino acids, lipids and minerals, which are natural components of many cereals, legumes, oil seeds, and vegetables and they play an important role in maintaining their quality and determining nutritive value in human diet.

Policy interventions and nutrition education should focus on linking agriculture to positive nutrition and health outcomes. Hence, in the efforts to address food and nutrition security it is pertinent to take into consideration the role of plant foods in diseases and health.

Climate smart agriculture should therefore, incorporate production of nutrition sensitive crops for positive nutrition and health outcomes among various populations in Africa.

Why worry about what you eat?

Globally, under nutrition and over nutrition are key concerns of many nutritionists. These two scenarios lead to risk of being underweight or overweight which can be measured. The risks of being overweight and physically inactive are numerous depending on individuals. The biblical perspective also cautions against overeating for instance “Proverbs 23:20-21: Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

If you are overweight (BMI over 25) and physically inactive) you may develop: Cardiovascular (heart and blood circulation) disease; Gall bladder disease; High blood pressure (hypertension); Diabetes; Osteoarthritis; and Certain types of cancer, such as Colon and Breast Cancer. The short-term conditions related to poor diet include fatigue, bad moods, depression and stress.

If you are underweight (BMI less than 20), you may be malnourished and develop: Compromised immune function, Respiratory disease, Digestive disease; Cancer; Osteoporosis, and Increased risk of falls and fractures.

The choice is yours!

A plant based diet will contain macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and lipids), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as dietary fibre. Dietary fibre has been showed to have benefits that include combating constipation and improvement of controls in the body like your heart health as well as protection against cancer.

The most undisputed advantage of insoluble fibre is its ability to soften and expand stool volume, speeding up faecal transit and elimination. Soluble fibre from legumes, barley, oats, some fruit and vegetables can help regulate blood sugar swings and by lowering serum cholesterol, protect against heart disease.

Excess blood fats are possibly reduced by soluble fibres such as pectin, bean and oat gums, and the types in legumes (lentils, chickpeas, navy, pinto or kidney beans). Your heart health may improve by diets rich in fibre, through its cholesterol lowering effects. Fibres also have possible anti-cancer effects since in the bowel, bacteria converts fibre into short chain fatty acids, which provide energy for the body and may help protect against cancer.

Many at times we neglect our bodies by overeating and lack of exercise. Physical exercise is also important in nutrition and health. 1 Timothy 4:8 says that “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come”.

Let moderation in everything guide you to a healthy living. “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 2 3 7