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News / Report: Nigeria round table and the African Science Manifesto

Adrian Ely writes: I heard some inspiring talks at the second day of the ATPS conference, where 157 delegates from 32 countries (including the 23 in which ATPS has national chapters) have gathered to discuss “Africa’s response to global challenges through science, technology and innovation”.

From Prof Osita Ogbu’s reflections over 30 years on the challenges of creating linkages in innovation systems and driving through institutional change; to some emerging understandings around the oil palm industries in Nigeria and Malaysia from Dr Boladale Adebowale, the selection of presentations has been broad and fascinating.

The final session of the day introduced two parallel but independent initiatives putting forward manifestos related to science, technology and society. Professor Alfonso Alfonsi outlined the activities of the SET-DEV project, a European Commission-funded project aiming to support the research systems of India and Kenya by assisting them in developing their own perspective on the socialisation of scientific and technological research. A component of SET-DEV is the production of manifestos around the socialisation of science by the project’s partners, ATPS being one. The African manifesto initiative “aims to bring science closer to African societies, and to promote collective responsibility towards science and technology through the democratization of science.”

Originally conceived as a manifesto for Kenya, the ATPS decided to extend the initiative to cover the whole continent following consultation with their members, also committing some of their own funds to enable this extended scope. There was general support for the idea of an African manifesto on Science, Technology and Innovation, written by Africans, for Africa, echoing many of the broader presentations highlighting the need for home-grown enterprises to drive the continent’s development. There was unfortunately insufficient time to discuss the finer details of either of the manifestos, but from the presentations it was clear that they shared many complementary elements and principles.

The session ended with a process to gather inputs to the African manifesto, building on the process of engagement and consultation over the preceding year. Those represented were asked 6 questions:
1. If you were to describe your vision for STI in Africa by 2050, what would that be?
2. What core principles should guide this process of turning your dream to reality?
3. How can we achieve your dream?
4. If you were to say a word to your national government to help the country achieve your dream, what could that be?
5. If you were to say something to the UN on what needs to be done to achieve sustainable STI in Africa, what would it be?
6. Kindly describe your impression on what you feel the African Manifesto for STI should like (there is no restriction to ideas you are able to offer)

These inputs from around Africa will be drawn upon in the preparation of the African manifesto, a process that the STEPS Centre will be following closely. Being international in its scope, the STEPS New Manifesto does not aim to talk to Africa alone. It certainly does not intend to talk for Africa, although we have made efforts to seek feedback and ideas from some African constituencies as part of the project process, and are highlighting certain perspectives from the continent on this website. In line with one of the central messages of the STEPS New Manifesto – that science, technology and innovation needs to be recognised as a political space and discussed in open and accountable fora – the STEPS Centre wholeheartedly supports the SET-DEV process and offers it encouragement to all those involved.

Please note: you can comment on our Manifesto project via our blog

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