Africa’s parliamentarians form forum to promote science and research collaboration

In order to promote harmonisation of national legislation and relevant measures for promoting science, innovation and technology for development in the continent, several parliamentarians recently endorsed the formation of African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Science and Technology and Innovation (AIPF-STI).

The forum, established at the second session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST II) meeting on May 2 in Addis Ababa organized by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), is also aimed to strengthen new forms of science, technology and innovation governance through cooperation and dialogue among parliamentarians, policymakers, scientists and industry.

CODIST, one of the UNECA’s seven subsidiary bodies, is composed of senior government officials who meet on biennial basis to review challenges and issues on information and communications technologies (ICTs), geo-information, science and technology sectors and formulate policies and strategies to address Africa’s development challenges.

Speaking at the launch of the forum, Dr Aida Opoku-Mensah, UNECA’s director ICT, Science and Technology Division (ISTD) said that involvement of parliamentarians in science technology and innovation issues is going to be “key in the future as Africa has least development in science and technology,” which therefore makes it relevant to work with parliamentarians.

“Even after the 2007 Africa Union (AU) heads of state declaration for governments to dedicate about 1 per cent of national budgets to fund specific countries’ research and development projects, the current average allocation is still only 0.3 per cent,” noted Dr Opoku-Mensah, adding that there further need for Africa’s parliamentarians to take advantage and opportunities presented by the digital economy.

The forum, which has been endorsed by Africa’s regional economic groupings including East Africa Community (EAC) through the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA), South Africa Development Community’s (SADC) Parliamentary Forum, also aims to promote the development, dissemination and exchange of scientific information, knowledge and experiences on policymaking, legislation and financing among members of parliament.

According to the AIPF-STI draft charter, the forum’s priorities will be on future global scientific research trends including evidence-based science, technology and innovation policymaking; legislation and innovative financing schemes; science education and communication and identifying of local and regional needs.

The forum, set to draw membership from all of Africa’s national parliaments, Pan-African Parliament and all regional parliamentary assemblies, also aims to promote measures for developing national and regional world-class scientific infrastructure and seeks to establish centres of excellence in various scientific disciplines and collaborative sub-regional science programmes.

The AIPF will have a secretariat managed by a secretary general who is appointed to serve for a term of three years by the president of the forum. During the launch of the forum, EALA through its speaker Mr Abdirahin Haithar Abdi expressed interest to host the forum secretariat.

The forum, whose steering committee consists of representatives from Morocco, Botswana, Senegal, Gabon, Mali, Malawi and Kenya, will fund the operations of its secretariat via a US $ 1,000 yearly contributions from parliaments in Africa.

“Member assemblies shall meet the cost of participation of their officials in AIPF-STI activities, as well as the cost of communication with the secretariat. Other expenses for all meetings of AIPF-STI incurred, including expenses related to the secretariat functions in the host country shall be borne by the host Parliament,” states the AIPF-STI draft charter, further adding that the operating costs of the secretariat shall be covered by the budget of the host parliament.

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